Sunday, February 21, 2016

I repeat myself...

You need not read here every day, though I feel compelled to write, for the situation in American education in which the developmental needs of most children are ignored is indeed tragic. The message is clear and has been clear since Comenius in the 17th century and only waits for readers to act individually and collectively upon it. The following is from Susan Blow's book Symbolic Education, 1894 which I should note came well before Piaget described the steps in the development of intellect and well before studies of the brain provided a handle on learning that nearly every current educational model ignores.
The greatest mistakes in education are rooted in the failure to recognize and conform to the different stages of natural development. Educational theorists are constantly pointing out this error; educational practice is constantly repeating it. Notwithstanding all that has been said and written, we still make knowledge our idol, and continue to fill the child's mind with foreign material, under the gratuitous assumption that at a later age he will be able, through some magic transubstantiation, to make it a vital part of his own thought. This is like loading his stomach with food which he can not digest, under the delusive hope that he may be able to digest it when he is a man. It is forcing the mind to move painfully forward under a heavy weight, instead of running, leaping, and flying under the incitement of its own energy and the allurement of its own perceived ideal.

Thus to load the young mind is a grievous sin; but we commit a yet more heinous offense when we insist upon the exercise of faculties whose normal development belongs to a later age. The child is sympathetic, perceptive, and imaginative, but he is incapable of sustained observation and repelled by analysis and logical inference. The very flowers he loves so dearly become mere instruments of mental torture when we constantly insist upon his analyzing and classifying them. The attempt to force a premature activity of reason can result only in the repulsion of his sympathies and the stultification of his mind.

But glaring as are our sins of commission, they pale before our sins of omission; for, while we are forcing upon the child's mind knowledge which has no roots in his experience, or calling on him to exercise still dormant powers, we refuse any aid to his spontaneous struggle to do and learn and be that which his stage of development demands. We paralyze the spirit of investigation by indifference to the child's questions, clip the wings of imagination by not responding to his poetic fancies, kill artistic effort by scorning its crude results, and freeze sympathy by coldness to its appeal. Thus remaining an alien to the child's life and forcing upon the child a life that is foreign to him, we sow in weak natures the seeds of formalism and hypocrisy, and so antagonize the strong natures that we tempt them to become intellectual and moral outlaws.

In all attempts to conform to the different stages of natural development we must, however, be careful to recognize the fact that they pass into each other by insensible gradations. (emphasis mine) – Symbolic Education by Susan Blow, 1894
You may note that Susan Blow wrote this two years before Piaget was born, and that educators equally ignore Piaget's supportive contributions to our understanding of the stage that prescribe how children learn. So it bears repetition. "Educational theorists are constantly pointing out this error; educational practice is constantly repeating it." –– Susan Blow

I repeat myself also in the wood shop. Yesterday I began finishing boxes to ready them for spring sales. The weather was unseasonably warm and invited me to work outside. Being less dependent than I once was on the sale of my work, I have a growing inventory of work that must be cleared away for new work to be completed. You can find some of it for sale on Etsy.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the understanding that we learn best likewise.

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