Tuesday, September 29, 2015

the real purpose of education...

Is this what schools must be like?
Of course many people do not think this way. But Otto Salomon had said there were two reasons for manual arts training: economic and developmental. The economic purpose was to offer skills that would be useful in meeting the needs of the economy and the economic needs of adults within that economy. The developmental purpose was to lift the child to a level of personal and societal fulfillment of highest values. These same distinctions can be applied to education at large. For Froebel, the developmental purpose was to bring the child into alignment with love of God, and yet you need not be a believer in God to understand the values of a moral and ethical society. The following is from H. Courthope Bowen's book Froebel And Education through Self-Activity, 1897:
Of course Froebel does not suppose that all that he counsels us to do... can be done in boyhood, — it may not even be accomplished in manhood, — but he thinks it should be the guiding principle and aim of every educator at all times. The end will not be reached by book-learning, listening, or passive contemplation, but only by action; for it is only by action that man learns to understand himself and others; only by studying the effects that he gains a knowledge of the cause. Gardening is one of the occupations Froebel would have us most carefully foster. By it the child gains his first glimpses of the wonders and beauties of nature; in it he watches the working of an unseen power; through it he learns to love labor, to use labor for the pleasure and good of others, and gains for himself a first touch of a sense of duty and responsibility. A child's activities should never, if possible, be left vague and purposeless. Just as the senses are to be organs of the mind, so the activities are to be expressions of the mind — of the mind of the actor, the child. In gardening, therefore, and in every other occupation, children should be encouraged and led by every possible means to make use of the results of their infant efforts, by giving pleasure and help to others. Work, which is also the fulfillment of duty, Froebel saw to be the only true basis of moral culture. In other words, if we infuse into work a sense of obligation to the community, to one's friends, or even only to one's better self, we readily make it a means of spiritual development, — a conception most important in its bearing on the healthiness and hopefulness of everyday, social life.
In other words, action and the exercise of craftsmanship may lead to both skill and morality. Passivity in learning may actually lead in the other direction. Can it be that the idle hands are the devil's workshop?

Yesterday in the CSS wood shop, students worked on wooden dinosaurs, finished cutting boards made with local woods, and began putting feathers on arrows.

Make, fix, create, and guide others toward learning likewise.


  1. Another thing that's important to consider in this equation is the development of character; in knowing others' and one's own. I haven't read as much on the trade-based education as you have, but I see a strong link of character development in a lot of other folk arts: music and dance.

    Recently I was very interested in the attitude of male aggression or violence or gusto in dance forms. Having a girlfriend that teaches ballet, I always wondered why the art form never deviates much from its sense of overwhelming contiguous grace, in both males and females. Many modern or romantic era "classical" dance forms fail to depict some of the shadier parts of our consciousness -- except for places where comedy is used, or adversity is resolved in a plot through magic or non-violent/non-aggressive "convenient happenstance". One of the reasons I'd bet this isn't depicted in a lot of dance forms is because -- ballet for example -- is an old tradition that shunned acknowledging or engaging in the darker side of human nature, especially any such behaviors that could be considered unholy. And also, it was considered family-oriented art and entertainment.

    I find it troublesome. I can't help but think that the traditional western formal dance forms are missing something in character development for their youth (especially the boys) by failing to portray elements of the human psyche that are bound to be a force in their lives -- especially male teenagers.

    But many folk arts do. I watched these Armenian men today on YouTube perform a dance that has that element of male aggression in it; a dance that is artful and finessed, yet also aggressive and war-like. During the course of the dance they mock-struggle with each other, slapping hands, embedding shoulders into each other, locking arms. Some kneel, maybe as if to show a need to rest, or perhaps they role-play as a defeated person. But either way... There's a lot of character development that can go on in a context like that.

    The folk arts are a vehicle that address the circumstances of living people, and that's important. It's important to keep people informed of what they can do in the world, and especially the energies at work within themselves. Having no vehicle for autognosis allows them to be oblivious to the self, and if you don't know yourself, how can you have a handle on your own elements? Like structural family theorist Salvador Minuchin once mentioned: a goal for the psychological development in young people should be to grow increasingly more objective as the years go by.

    I don't see a lot of our youth becoming increasingly more objective. I see many stuck in their heads: in love with an idea of themselves, and oblivious to the reality of themselves.

    With schools being as "hygienic" as they are these days (both overly-protective and usually dismissive or disinterested in a student's character)... Is it any wonder why we seem to be engineering generations of young people that passively accept their role as a "subject" of a system, wherein they mostly wait until they've passed enough tests, so as to earn enough money and continue to be passive consumers entertaining themselves to death?

    It's disconcerting.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6rx-rJ42yA

  3. Thanks for the video. Dance can be a form of story telling and a way to engage men as well as women. Year's ago, I was enlisted with 5 other fathers to dance a stick dance in my daughter's ballet performance. And that was fun. We didn't get enough rehearsal time to get good at it. A great example of men's dance to tell a story is in the movie Seven Wives for Seven Brothers. The men did a dance on the setting of a timber framed barn being built, and the dance involved axes.