Thursday, November 03, 2016

it's biology...

Frank Wilson, author of the hand, sent me an article in the New York Times about men leaving the new digital economy to do manual labor of various kinds. Frank noted that to work with the hands is not just something we might choose to do on a whim, but that it's part of our biology. The hands and brain co-evolved as a learning system, and that they operate  most effectively in direct relationship to the other.

Elliot Washor, Co-Founder of the Big Picture Schools. sent me an article from the Atlantic about how the insistence that college is required by all is a waste of time and money for some. So reading these two, one must ask what happens when someone goes into massive debt at college and then goes on to decide they want to want to work with their hands but were left totally unprepared for it? What if what you really wanted to do was go into the drapery business, but then cannot due to burdensome debt?

We've become a nation of idiots, largely because we've overlooked, diminished and disparaged the value of the relationship between hands and mind. But the relationship between head and hands is simple biology that must not be ignored.

Yesterday I promised to simplify and review the basics of woodworking in school (or in after school programs) (or introducing woodworking in a grandparent's garage).

We start (as in educational sloyd) with the interests of the child.  And one of the very best reasons that woodworking should be in schools or at the center of after school activities is that it directly attracts the interests of most children. There is a natural curiosity about the use of tools and the way they mark and shape the wood.  Plus, there are feelings of power and control over the physical world, a sense of physical agency, that one cannot get through digital devices. Even 3 D printers do not provide the same sense of agency as does skilled use of a saw.

In Educational Sloyd and Whittling, by Gustaf Larsson you can read the projects as they are presented and see a gradual expansion of the number of tools required for the project, that their introduction is arranged upon their complexity and difficulty of use, and that the projects themselves increase in difficulty and complexity throughout the course.

In Sweden and Norway, the first tool to be introduced was the knife. It is the simplest of tools, and met the need for progression from the known to the unknown as every child in those countries would already be familiar with its use.

These days, most children are already experienced in the use of digital technology, but I hesitate to call these digital objects tools, in that they do very little to actually shape physical reality and they provide little insight into the workings of fundamental realities. They violate the principle of educational sloyd that suggests moving from the concrete to the abstract. They work in exactly the opposite direction, which then makes the introduction and use of simple tools even more important.

Today I continue to clean my shop, office and finish room for a weekend open house. Go to for details.

Make, fix, create, and offer others to chance of learning likewise

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