Monday, December 05, 2016

the nutshell: Make it meaningful, make it real.

Education, according to Salomon (and to Dewey) had two purposes. One was to prepare the child for economic success. The other was to prepare the child (and later the adult) to get along with others within communities: to grow as human beings in understanding of self. To focus on doing both is a tall order, particularly if you've created a contrived system of learning virtually devoid of real, meaningful work.

At my 40th year of woodworking celebration, family members came from Nebraska, and old friends came from Wichita Kansas, and in the midst of these two groups two young boys met for the first time, my nephew Knox, and Wyatt, the grandson of old friends. The two boys took to each other immediately, having age in common, but also sharing a profound love of dinosaurs. The two could have played and talked about dinosaurs for hours and days and it was difficult to pull the two boys apart when it was time for my show to end and for guests to part ways.

In planning the school experience, and in selling the necessity of the school experience to parents of young children, promises are made of the child's glorious future and economic success. But too little emphasis is laid on the social aspects of learning, and the election we just endured is an example of what we get when children grow into adults having not learned the fundamentals of interpersonal cooperation.

I was greatly relieved yesterday that the US Army Corp of Engineers shut down construction of the Dakota pipeline, thus handing a short-term victory to the valiant protestors who had already been forced to endure too much. I was so well reminded of our own fight against the destructive powerline three years ago, in which an ill conceived power line with no purpose but that of power company profits, was to be built needlessly across our lands here in Northwest Arkansas. We stopped that unreasonable monstrosity, and I again celebrate our own success in theirs.

Schools, focused only on the further academic success of their students put the entirety of human existence on the line. Without environmental studies to link our children to the splendors of the natural world (both large and small), they become careless of resources and allow corporate greed to rule all. Without training in how to cooperate and get along with each other, and without the opportunity to learn deeply of each other (in all classes, races and orientations) our democracy is placed in dire straights.

There are two basic principles that pull the whole of learning into alignment. Both of these can be derived from a study of Educational Sloyd, and have become the core of my own educational formula. Make it meaningful to the child (throughout his or her schooling) and make it REAL.

Tomorrow, I will get more specific in how this can be accomplished.

Make, fix, create, and offer others encouragement to learn likewise.

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