Monday, March 07, 2016

intelligence and self-respect

Long before we human beings became aware of the great damage we've done to the forests and to the environment at large, industrial arts classes taught conservation and respect for the materials.  Because of the characteristics inherent in wood and its grain, it could not be successfully formed into objects of useful beauty without close observation. In woodworking classes, a direct tactile connection was made that had the potential of guiding students into a healthy relationship with our forests and to the planet. The beauty of the wood has the potential to awaken students to the wonders of biology, and to our human reliance upon our forest resources.

It made sense from an industrialized marketing perspective, and for the sake of exploitation of resources, that people were to become disconnected in their schooling and isolated from the real world so that they would learn to accept plastic laminate on particle board and other such degradations as being the real thing. Students learning the values inherent in craftsmanship and gaining an understanding of the beauty and value of real wood, might not be as accepting of the quickly made meaningless things that industries hoped to sell. The very idea of students doing real things would make those seeking to dominate the economy concerned over their loss of economic opportunity. Those with power in their own hands are no longer slaves to the market or the economy. They can make what they want and arise in intelligence and understanding as they do so. In that too, can be found a threat to the system that enslaves us to the endless pursuit of meaningless things.

In the early 1960' s my father bought a hardware store in a small town in Nebraska, and while it was not a good business decision, serving the people in that small town became our way of life. My time spent, weekends and summers, in that store as a very young man shaped my life in a variety of ways. First, it brought me into regular contact with farmers, mechanics, blacksmiths, and all sorts of people who worked with their hands. Their clothes may have been filthy as they came in from the field or work shop to buy nuts or bolts or a small tool of some kind, but I experienced their generosity, their kindness and of their self respect, which had much less to do with what they looked like and much more with what they did: honest workmanship that was always the strength of our nation.

Those who neither understood nor accepted the value of the hands in their own learning would have never understood its value for others. And so schooling became more and more academic, and left those of us who know that it could be so much more than that, very sorry for the overall loss of hands-on activities in schools. Shop classes, music, the arts, theater, laboratory science and other things that make schooling real are essential to its relevance in the lives of our kids.

Kim sent this link to an interesting article. Teaching Industrial Arts: Then and Now by shop teacher Steve Green in Southern California who notes that only kids not programmed to go to college are allowed in shop classes even though there are no aspects of the Core Curriculum that are not reinforced by them.
"The irony is respected studies have shown that without the use of the hands, we would not have culture, language, or even civilization. Another irony is the more you use your hands, the more neurotransmitters you will develop. Is this not a requirement for critical, college level thinking? Yet society continues to place less value on those people that work with their hands, and more value on an abstract university degree."
Was there a conspiracy in the wholesale destruction of wood shop programs? Perhaps it was just a case of incredible stupidity and malfeasance at work.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

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