Saturday, January 16, 2016

from the concrete to the abstract...

On Thursday at Clear Spring School two students went into the office and insisted that our Head of School accompany them onto the playground to pick up something from the ground that they dared not touch. It was a loaded handgun, in tiny holster, no larger than a child's toy. The gun was turned over to the police with the assumption that it had been carried onto the campus by a workman and dropped from his truck. We are fortunate that our kids are so smart.

On the other hand, it is unfortunate that others can be so stupid about guns. If I were to know who that particular person was, I would ask a few questions that might apply to others as well. "Why would you need such a thing? How would having such a thing be of benefit to you, or your community? And what in God's green world are you so frightened of, that you would need to carry a loaded gun and then allow yourself to handle it in such an irresponsible manner?" If one is frightened, there are more reasonable ways to manage that. If one is simply a coward and needs a gun to feel safe, I would suggest therapy.

Guns are concrete representations of terrible potentialities that should remain, as much as possible in the abstract. I have a strong suspicion that one of the reasons that so many folks have such an overwhelming fascination with guns is that in schooling, their hands have not been allowed to serve fully in forming the necessary bridge between the concrete and abstract. It has been proven that those who have been stopped from counting on their fingers have a tendency to count on fingers their whole lives, but those who are allowed to count on their fingers more quickly outgrow the necessity of doing so. With regards to wood shop, who would be so powerfully drawn to destructive capacity if they were fully engaged creatively through the use of real tools.

Otto Salomon had a very clear notion of how the concrete and abstract were to be managed in relationship.
The Work Should Not Involve Fatiguing Preparatory Exercises. This brings before us the important educational principle of proceeding from the Concrete to the Abstract. It is, unfortunately, too true that, in the ordinary school subjects, we have generally gone from the Abstract to the Concrete. It is also unfortunately true that systems of manual work have been started which proceed in the same uneducational way. The children begin straightway either to make the drawings, or to work from the drawings already made. In Sloyd, we are so heterodox as not to begin by working from the drawing —which is an abstract thing—but from the model—which is something concrete. A glance at an object tells the child far more than a glance at the drawing of it, and it is by appealing to as many senses as possible, and not to the eye alone, that observation and intuition are most readily cultivated. From Concrete to Abstract is also from Easy to Difficult. A child learns much more from seeing and handling a particular table or chair than from descriptions or pictures of them.
The experience of a concrete object involves experience of all the senses, and thus fit with the teaching of Pestalozzi, but it is rare these days that educators speak of the concrete or the necessity that all the senses be engaged. On another subject, we have begun planning an education day during my visit to Portland Oregon in March. During most of the week I'll be teaching classed in box making and making small cabinets. But on one day, I am to meet with educators about the Wisdom of the Hands program and how to bring the hands into play in education.

Today in the wood shop, I will be sanding some of my production boxes getting them ready to fill orders in the spring.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others an understanding of the value of learning likewise.

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