Monday, January 11, 2016

Ted Sizer

In 1984, Ted Sizer published his classic book, Horace's Dilemma, that explored the American high school experience. Unfortunately, educational policy makers chose to push things in the least appropriate direction as they have often done.
"Schools value strictly orderly thinking. The computer, with its special form of algorithmic "reasoning," reinforces this predilection. Some adults in schools dismiss all other kinds of thinking as playing around making mudpies. For them, intuition and imagination are not really serious pursuits. The trial-and-error procedures involved are too messy. Accordingly, they get short shrift in far too many schools, with sad costs to the individuals and their communities."–Theodore Sizer, Horace's Dilemma, 1984
One thing you learn from woodworking and through the application of mind (and hands) to the real world is that materials may be used to advantage as in planing with the grain, or to distinct disadvantage when one forces one's way through against the grain. So some sensitivity and application of attention is required.

A friend of mine is an antique dealer and had invited me to examine a chair he assured me was made in the sixteenth century. I asked if I could turn it over and look underneath, at which time it was revealed to me that it could not have been made at such an early date. The stock underneath had a very large chunk of wood torn out by a power plane, whereas no craftsman with normal strength could have done such a thing and only by purposely going against the grain with inordinate force. The amount of strength required to remove such a large chunk would have been huge and unavailable in the time before power driven tools.

So schools intended for the efficient delivery of information run roughshod and amok on children and their sensitivities. A close examination of our kids and their attitudes about learning and about schooling may reveal that they have been powered through the process of schooling without sensitivity to their grain.

In the illustration above, you will note the craftsman's posture. He aligns himself carefully, and squares himself and the tool to the stock. What if our teachers had time for such careful alignment?

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the capacity to learn likewise.

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