As Stowe's use of the word "undeserving" suggests, at the heart of education is the fact that we are evaluative beings. Our rational capacities are intimately tied into our emotional equipment of admiration and contempt, those evaluative responses that are inadmissible under the flattening. A young boy, let us say, admires the skill and courage of racecar drivers. This kind of human greatness may not be available to him realistically, but is perfectly intelligible to him. If he learns trigonometry, he can put himself in the service of it, for example by becoming a fabricator in the world of motor sports. He can at least imagine such a future for himself, and this is what keeps him going to school. At some point, the pleasures of pure mathematics may begin to make themselves felt and give his life a different shape. Or not. He may instead become enthralled with the beauty of a well-laid weld bead on a perfectly coped tubing joint‐like a stack of shiny dimes that has fallen over and draped itself around a curve‐and devote himself to this art. There are websites for "weld porn,” and the mere fact that this is so should be of urgent interest to educators. Education requires a certain capacity for asceticism, but more fundamentally it is erotic. Only beautiful things lead us out to join the world beyond our heads. –quoted with author permission, The World Beyond Your Head. pg. 256-57So in the face of ever increasing emphasis on standards and standardization I offer on the other hand, a solution to the problems we face in American education. Back in the days of Educational Sloyd, the nations of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark were equipped with vast numbers of potential teachers of Sloyd. So it made sense for them to center development of Educational Sloyd on woodworking for the boys and needle craft for the girls. These days are different, and while Educational Sloyd was imposed in a manner in which all schools in Sweden could be working from the same model series at the same time, a renewal of American education should offer an escape from the rigidity imposed through standardized testing.
So I request the consideration of three simple standards designed to shake things up, unflatten schooling and make learning more real (and thereby more engaging) for American students. 1. Challenge every teacher to make what they teach hands-on, thereby connecting student attention to the real world. 2. Allow every student at every grade level to engage in the creation of useful beauty. 3. Prior to graduation, each student should be required to create something expressing useful beauty and of such quality that it will last their whole life long.
The simple point is to make schooling real. As I state at the top of this page, this blog is dedicated to sharing the concept that our hands are essential to learning-that we engage the world and its wonders, sensing and creating primarily through the agency of our hands. We abandon our children to education in boredom and intellectual escapism by failing to engage their hands in learning and making. So the point is not to take education back to the 19th century, but to move forward with some common sense understanding about how we learn best. And as Crawford states so clearly, "Only beautiful things lead us out to join the world beyond our heads."
Make, fix, create, and make it possible for others to learn likewise.