|Chico Bon Bon. The Monkey with a Tool Belt|
Jeb Bush has claimed his ability to fix things with his new campaign slogan and twitter feed, #Jebcanfix it, So it might seem natural for me to declare my support for Jeb! But it must have been an exciting day around the Bush campaign as folks on Twitter noted the various things Jeb had fixed in the past. For instance, as governor of Florida, he and his secretary of state Katherine Harris disenfranchised black voters to fix the election of his brother George W. Bush, and we all know now how well that turned out.
If the past is any indication of how and what Jeb would fix, his campaign should close its doors asap. As governor of Florida, he was a leader in the standardized testing movement. He and his family have major investments in the corporations that sell the tests. In Florida, one school district gave more than 160 tests in the last year. Just think of how much they would have learned if all those children had spent time in wood shop instead?
Fixing things is cool, particularly if you actually have the skills to do real things. But the kind of fixing that Bush has in mind does not involve wrenches or any real tools. Bob the Builder, he's not. He could learn a few things from Chico Bon Bon, the Monkey with a Tool Belt. There are about 4 different books about Chico, by author/illustrator Chris Monroe. In each book, Chico demonstrates his intelligence and compassion solving problems to help his friends and neighbors. So, if we were forced to choose between Jeb! and Chico Bon Bon, my advice is to go with the monkey. #Chico Bon Bon for President.
Testing might not have been such a bad thing, but for the unforeseen consequences of throwing money at schools or denying it, based on performance as measured by standardized tests. Local school districts and state school boards are hungry for money and have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice children to get it. The impact of Federal dollars is nothing new. In fact, the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917 as described in Charles A. Bennet's History of Manual and Industrial Arts Training led directly to the demise of Educational Sloyd in the US. While the Smith-Hughes act, brought federal money into vocational education and was regarded as a huge triumph by some, it also spelled the end for those idealistic and progressive American educators whose understanding of the connection between the hand and brain had drawn them to conclude that manual training was necessary for all. In essence, the Smith-Hughes Act solidified in law the class structure that plagues us to this day. I think you will find in the sad resignation of Bennett's closing remarks, the disappointment he felt. For Bennett, the most interesting part of the history of Manual and Industrial Education ended with the passing of Smith-Hughes and the eclipse of Educational Sloyd:
The signing of the Smith-Hughes act, thereby creating a federal directing and reimbursing law with reference to certain types of vocational education, was the beginning of a new era in manual and industrial education in the United States and therefore the end of the era concerning which this book was written. Throughout the years of effort to obtain the law, there were three constantly recurring and conflicting interests that had to be harmonized or at least propitiated. One was between the manufacturer and the labor union - each wished to regulate vocational training in order to control the labor market. Then there was the conflict of ideals between those who sought more practical education in the public schools and those who feared that vocational training would lower the standard of cultural education. And finally, when the need for vocational training was admitted, some believed that it could be effective only when separated from the public-school work of general education; while others insisted on the unity of control in public education and saw no good reason for a dual system. The law passed was probably the best compromise that could have been obtained at that time.Today I will be working in my own shop, and have simply written again to remind my readers that the best education and the one to greatest lasting effect comes when the hands are purposely engaged in learning. If you want to fix your own life, make something. If you want to fix education, teach children to make.
Make, fix, create, and assist others to learn likewise.