Sunday, January 22, 2017

a simple formula for education reform....

This next Friday I've been invited to join a group of "fellows" of A+ Schools, the purpose of which is to bring arts education back to Arkansas Public Schools. The idea is that arts make a difference. When students are engaged more deeply in learning, they have a greater likelihood of following through to graduation, and that the arts have, therefore, a important role in re-energizing education. Therefore, based on the A+ model, the arts should be integrated throughout schooling and in every classroom activity. I believe it.

I was invited to join because some had thought that woodworking should become an important part of the mix of available arts. But it is my intention to bring more to the group of fellows than that. If you understand the role of the hands in learning, then the arts are a no-brainer. You see imeeediately why the arts are essential and where they fit in. The same applies to auto body repair, laboratory science, travel, field trips, music, gardening, the care for small animals, dramatic performance, cooking, internships, and yes, wood shop.

While asked to supply woodworking to the mix of available arts, my point is not to offer one more activity to fill the school day, but to make certain that the hands are engaged usefully in every minute of a child's education.

The engagement of the hands is the measure we human beings use to discern a firm foundation for reality. To learn hands-on is to learn "first hand" from reality itself.

The oddest of all possible things in education is that every educator will know him or herself as being a hands-on learner and point to particular moments when the reality of that was made clear, and then our of laziness, misdirection or lack of training allow education to proceed as an abstract endeavor. With a bit of encouragement, even history teachers can teach hands-on.

Yesterday my wife and I went to rally with 10,000 or so advocates in opposition to the trump administration. It was energizing to be with people who share our values of love and consideration for each other.

My simple formula for education reform? Use the hands to leverage reality in
to learning. 

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.


  1. Hi Doug.

    I often think of your splendid way of engaging the hands in American history, when you had the pupils making oxen and wagons to an imaginative trip on the Ozark trail.
    I remember back in 6th or 7th grade that <i cast some Mjølners (the hammer of Thor) for a project we did on the Viking age. There are so many things from my school days that I don't remember, but that project stays with me, most likely because we didn't just read about it, or were told about it, but "did something" about it.

    I hope you will succeed in getting arts back to the Arkansas public school system.


  2. Jonas, thank you for your encouragement. As you know, it's not just a matter of bringing the arts back but of restoring them to a central position in education. The odd thing is that parents almost always show up for performances but often skip conferences. So I suggest that even parents know the importance of their children being engaged in real things of real meaning. And so the question remains, why do we try to continue to engineer schooling from the top down instead of listening to the needs and interests of each and every child? Children are our future and many are unwilling to invest.