Monday, October 19, 2015

why the hands will out*

The wired classroom
Yesterday I began the process of throwing out old CDs and DVDs that brought systems and applications to my computers over several generations of technology. They represent capacity that I was allowed short term license to use (under certain restrictions) but not own. Most of modern technology is following the same direction. As cars and tractors are designed with chips and processors to control their performance, mechanics and owners are finding that the same rules apply. As new development occurs, planned obsolescence sets in to affect old products, and owners discover that they cannot be fixed or operated beyond their planned time. Even toasters can be programmed to force their replacement when the owner of the license wants the consumer to buy a new one.

This will mean that objects, no matter how much you care about them, and regardless of how much you take care of them, will expire on a timeline established by others.

The inclinations of the craftsman to create lasting beauty and utility, and to shape his or her own intelligence and character at the same time are directly counter to the machinations of the industrialized world, which for all intents and purposes produces things quickly and of short duration, thus assuring our continued dependence on the products of modern technology. The big question of course is how long we will remain complaisant consumers and allow power to be taken from our own hands.

Still, the hands will out.* While industry robs the planet of its resources, including the rain that falls and the air we breathe, the craftsman puts back and preserves, and thinks of coming generations, not short term profits.

Just as a small power tool can go out of adjustment and mis-cut joints having a greater adverse effect than a simple error in hand tool use, the larger and more complex the system, the more catastrophic the collapse.

My point here is not to create a doomsday cult, but to urge a society of makers who are sensitive to the environment and responsible to the preservation and extension of human culture. Originally Kindergarten and the manual arts movements were formulated to do just that. As described by Countess Bertha Von Marenholtz B├╝low in her book Hand Work & Head Work:
The ordinary way of getting infants to be quiet and attentive is to make them fold their hands behind them, or put their arms by their sides. Nature impels children to be constantly using their hands; we resort to this unnatural method, to prevent the perpetual "playing with the hands," which takes off the attention from the lessons to be learnt. But anything that is antagonistic to the child's nature is hurtful to it. And in this very instinct to use the hands, if we would only believe it, we have the best possible means of arresting the attention of the child. Froebel has taken this lesson fully to heart, for in all his lessons for young children there is always accompanying action of the hands. The child's nature requires that head-work and hand-work should be combined; that all its knowledge should be obtained by action.
*the term "will out" as applied to murder and the truth go back in English literature to Chaucer and Shakespeare. It refers to a thing becoming of public knowledge. The hands, on the one hand have been treated roughly. On the other hand, the hands are the true source of human wisdom and will not be neglected for long unless we are deeply set on damaging the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Make, fix, create and extend the power to learn likewise.

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