Friday, October 16, 2015

Hand Work, Head Work and the reform of education

An interesting book that all involved in education should read is Hand Work & Head Work, Their Relation to One Another and the Reform of Education According to the Principles of Frobel by Countess Bertha Von Marenholtz Bülow, 1883. It is available as a free download from Google books.
The development of the human race did not certainly begin with learning in the sense of school-learning. Before human beings had books and schools, they were obliged to procure for themselves the satisfaction of their immediate necessities— shelter, food, and clothing. The beginnings of human knowledge were the result of the experiences which our ancestors thus collected together. Voyages of discovery in their own neighbourhood, observation of the products of nature, investigations concerning the properties of things, and accidental discoveries, and inventions by the way—these were the ways in which the culture of our race began, this was its first educational work, the preparatory school out of which science and art have arisen. Our present systems of education have certainly deviated very far from the natural method by which the Divine Educator has led the human race, or they, too, would begin with work and not with learning—work, i.e., in the sense in which all development may be said to be a species of work, viz., movement, activity, exertion, which result in the letting loose of bound-up an innate striving after growth which conduces to the progress of the universe.
The point here is that education has become steeped in artificiality, which we see replicated throughout human life. That artificiality places human culture at odds with the natural world upon which we depend. Friedrich Froebel had attempted to devise a system of education that conformed to natural laws, illuminated those laws for educational purposes, which was to then lead to a more effective, harmonious and just society. His system won the attention of just a few devoted followers like Countess Von Bülow who then brought it to the world. One can argue that the times have changed, and yet the hands remain the instruments through which we learn of the world and its wonders. To ignore the role of the hands in learning is education's first and greatest mistake.
In all genuine works of art, i.e., works that are really individual, original creations, the artist himself, not only his conception, but his mental and spiritual personality, is reproduced, or mirrored. And it is because he can thus express himself in his works—represent his inner being in a concrete form—that his art affords him real satisfaction. Human beings are intended, in one way or another, to give outward expression to their inner beings—to impart their own individuality to the most objective representations. It is only by individual form that man can represent the universal. Raphael and Michael Angelo were undoubtedly objective in their works, but every connoisseur can accurately distinguish in each one of their creations, the individual stamp of the one or the other. Industrial handiwork can only produce satisfaction and elevation similar to that afforded by art, when the workman gives an individual character to his work, when he puts into it some portion of his own inventive spirit. But what an immense amount of preparation does the artist need for his vocation! Must he not, in the first place, be thoroughly acquainted with the materials he has to work with? Without a knowledge of colours there can be no painter; no sculptor, no architect, without a knowledge of marble, of different kinds of stone, of matter generally. In like manner no handicraftsman can attain to excellence until he have acquired thorough familiarity with his materials; almost every kind of work requires a certain power of controlling or managing materials, for which practical, experimental knowledge is essential.–– Bertha Von Marenholtz Bülow
In the wood shop today, I will be making boxes. I realized as I was milling parts yesterday and reviewing orders that there was one box size I had overlooked in my preparation of stock. Thanks to my 4 position router table, catching up with those parts will be a breeze.

Make, fix, create, and inspire others to learn likewise.

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