Saturday, November 19, 2016
A number of years ago, even before ESSA was born, I was invited to the Chamber of Commerce "Vision Committee," so that I could explain what a school of the arts would be and how it would perform in our community and what its effects would be. The business community then largely ignored us as we put things in place and began building what we have built. But we are now at the point that even they are beginning to understand.
I read an article that laid the results of our recent presidential election at the foot of foolishness in schooling. It has long been recognized that schools have two primary functions, that of preparing students for the economy (to make a living), and of socializing them to perform as meaningful persons in democracy (to make a life). The article said we've focused on one and not the other. Otto Salomon said that schools have both a "Formell" (or formative) purpose and an economic one, with the word formell referring to the school's role in forming the individual to meet the non-economic responsibilities of citizenry, community and humanity (to which I'll add, the responsibility of stewardship of planetary resources).
The way Salomon proposed to meet both goals was to foster a sense of understanding of the dignity of all labor, so that all within the culture would have deep respect for each other. Woodworking for all in school was his essential tool for this.
In the meantime, over the past 50 years in the US, the educational and political elite decided that all children must go to college, whether they were actually interested or not, and so manual arts programs were extraneous to their plans, and could be safely eliminated. And so millions of students took on unnecessary college debt, taking courses they would never have use for, and those who were successful in business and in their university educations did not garner the sense of the dignity of all labor that Salomon proposed. So what happened was that schools failed to perform either of their traditional functions well. Students were burdened by unnecessary debt, and the formative goals of education that would have integrated all levels of society in a united citizenry were not met.
The highly polarize election we just endured is an example of what happens when children in schools are not helped to get along with each other, are not given the skills to work out their disagreements by talking to each other, fail to recognize the greater things they have in common, and do not put those things first.
As you might be able to tell, I am gathering and refining my comments for a brief talk at tomorrow's event. Your invitation is in yesterday's blog post.
The photo at the top shows one of my high school students sanding his freshly made shaker box.
Make, fix, create, and offer others the opportunity to learn likewise.