Saturday, June 19, 2021

returned to print

I learned yesterday that 2 of my books that F&W Publishing had allowed to go out of print before their bankruptcy and before the book rights were bought by Penguin Random House, have been brought back in print and made available on Amazon. One of these books is my first, Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques.

My 2nd book Simply Beautiful Boxes, was published in 2000. 

Another of my books currently managed and sold by Penguin Random House books is Build 25 Beautiful Boxes, a compilation of the first two books. If you want these books in their original form, buy them. If you want to save some money buy the compilation that includes almost all the contents from the first two books.

Make, fix and create.... Assist others in learning lifewise.

family style education

An interesting article about a return to the one room schoolhouse ideal for American education has been circulating through the Clear Spring School community, as we have embarked on our own path in that direction. As in many things, Clear Spring School has been ahead of the curve. The article in Forbes can be found here:

The notion of education taking place across different ages—where students are also teachers, and where team-based education proliferates—is indeed an exciting vision for the future. In fact, it’s exactly what happens in our modern-day workplaces and ideally in our democracy too.

And in our families as well. In an industrialized view of education, size matters and the tendency is for schools to become of enormous size in which the individual is marginalized. In the one room school house approach, families are involved and made important, and the learning is supercharged in all directions. 

One of the first truly progressive educators, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi described the formula in his books Henry and Gertrude, and How Gertrude Teaches Her Children. The relationship between children of various ages forming family-like bonds and through which the medical school model of see one, do one, teach one can be practiced is key. And this simple formula should prevail in all schools.

But then of course, to see one, do one, and teach one, requires that you have something to do other than sitting through mind numbing lectures or thumbing through books or what's online. That's where the Clear Spring School model has the opportunity to excel. We do stuff. Wood shop, music, art, sewing, the culinary arts and the bee garden all add substance and depth to learning and a means through which our kids can show one another and prove to themselves what they can do.

Today I'll be making a presentation via zoom to the Alabama Woodworking Guild prior to a class I'll teach there in August.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, June 18, 2021

giant sofa

Our giant Froebel blocks at the Clear Spring School are constantly being  rearranged by kids, usually as some kind of fort or obstacle course. The other day when I arrived on campus the students had built a giant sofa. This project required the collaboration of efforts by a group of kids working together. I like the way they arranged them with a means to climb up and I'm sorry I missed seeing them putting their sofa to use.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

experience in the real world

Yesterday I made a short presentation to our Clear Spring High School students on the Harbor Freight Fellows program that promotes internships in the trades. 

For much too long it has been assumed that students upon arriving at high school age would have to make a choice whether they were going to college or not, and that some would be directed into the trades, those being students insufficiently prepared or or unable to meet the rigors of academia. This was based on a model described by a known racist, Woodrow Wilson who as president of Princeton University had said: 

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson

Wilson, as our American president, had signed into law the Smith-Hughes Act (1917) which funneled federal dollars into manual and industrial arts training, separating it from academics, thereby creating two tracks in American education, one "upper" leading to white collar employment and one lower, leading to servitude in the trades.

On the other hand, and as I attempted to explain to our students at the Clear Spring School, the education of hand and the education of mind are best not kept separate. They refresh and reinforce each other, a thing Wilson evidently did not understand.

In the early 1960's my mother who had been educated as a Kindergarten teacher in the 1940's decided to return to work and was given a job teaching in Omaha, Nebraska, on a conditional teaching certificate that required her to return to college to attain a 4 year degree. It was a challenging time for our family, with my mother teaching school during the day and attending college at night. It required my sisters and I to take greater responsibilities around the house, but it was an exciting time also due to the excitement my mother found in her studies. 

Her main competition for good grades were from the "Boot strappers" who having left the military were given the chance to attend college. She noted a marked difference between those students in class who had experience and maturity over those who were simply being shuffled forward through the process of getting their college degrees. Along with experience derived from their participation in the real world, the boots strappers brought seriousness and a deeper level of engagement to their classes thus raising the bar for others.

To make a simple point that has great value, getting a trade and learning from it is not a stopping point, but a beginning. Using the principles of educational sloyd as our learning model, we start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract, at each step building confidence and competence in the student. What you learn in plumbing has direct relationship to what you learn in physics, and what you learn in the wood shop can have direct relationship to every aspect of life. What you learn in mastering a trade can be utilized and leveraged in the quest for higher knowledge which is often not as high as one might hope as it is too often isolated in abstraction and fabrication of made up talking points.

For much too long the trades have been seen as a dead end, but as educators across the US began to insist that every kid go to college, we abandoned the most basic notion, that every child should be prepared for life. That involves (as Wilson suggested) fitting ourselves to perform difficult manual tasks, but also engaging at the same time in understanding matters of philosophy, poetry, religion, math, the arts and the sciences. The interesting thing that's been proven time and time again is that engagement in the physical world brings deeper understanding of all else.

When my mother returned to college to get her four year degree, our whole family was brought to an understanding, observing her model, of the value of life long learning and the joy that can bring. 

As I urged my students yesterday, I urge you all as well. Learn a trade and apply what you've learned as a starting point, not the end of your development. The illustration above is from Nääs, the home of Educational Sloyd where teachers were taught to educate both the hand and mind for the benefit of both the individual and society. Educational Sloyd training in the US declined  after Wilson's implementation of the Smith-Hughes Act, 1917, putting into law Wilson's ideal of maintaining society's separation into two classes.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

camp stools and buddy bench

Yesterday we finished camp stools and a buddy bench in the Clear Spring School wood shop. The photo shows the use of Japanese saws to cut the tops of through tenons attaching the legs. Even the youngest were involved.

Today I have a practice zoom session with the Alabama Woodworking Guild for a Saturday morning zoom session and will begin preparing for a weeklong box making class at ESSA that starts Monday.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, June 14, 2021

tour guide...

 This morning I played tour guide, taking Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson to my favorite places in Eureka Springs, the Clear Spring School and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

At the Clear Spring School, Rex arrived at my favorite time of the school day, recess when students are expressing great joy. At ESSA we had classes for adults in session. One was a life drawing class with Mary Springer, and the other, an enameling class in the small metals studio.

Rex writes regularly about Arkansas and we were planning to meet over a year ago, and before the Covid-19 pandemic shut things down across the state.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Stanford 1996

Earlier today I mentioned a report on the radio on research that attitude going into a standardized test can adversely affect outcomes, particularly for minorities and for women. The ground breaking research came from Stanford University in 1996.

Not much new there in the last 25 years except that colleges, and universities have done little to nothing to remove the stigma for minorities and women concerning lower performances on standardized tests. Educators, administrators and parents remain fixated on standardized tests results. And standardized testing should be considered as yet another element of institutionalized bias against minorities and women.

We need to redesign education at all levels to bring about the purposeful integration of the hands. 

To become a licensed public school teacher in the US you begin by sitting in classrooms being lectured to for your first three years. Then and only then do you enter the classroom for practice teaching. 

In a program that understood the necessity of hands-on learning, your practice teaching would begin your first or second semester of college providing concrete examples to draw upon in your consideration of the abstract material presented in class. 

In med school instead of spending your first four years cracking the books and attempting to memorize information that's abstract given your lack of experience, you would start the practice of medicine as a nurses aid and work your way up concurrent with your classroom experience. Not only would you be learning from the concrete rather than the abstract, you would know that your own learning was immediately of value to others. You might even be able to offset some of the costs of getting your doctor's degree.

I can guarantee that properly designed programs in medicine and education would reduce the number of dropouts, and improve both  professions.

But then, what do I know about all this? I'm just a woodworking son of a Kindergarten teacher who became a proponent of Educational Sloyd. But if what I say resonates as true to your own experience, pass this along.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

How to think outside your brain.

A former student of mine from Marc Adams School of Woodworking sent me this article from the New York Times, It suggests that we learn to think outside our brains. Makes sense, right? As a friend of mine suggested many years ago, "there's a real world out there." If we're not paying attention to it, we're really missing out.

But can you just think things through remaining inside your head? What a dumb place to  hang out.

I noted to my friend that I play a word game on my iPad and there are times when I get stumped. If I do something else for a few minutes or move physically to a new location in the house or on the porch, I look at the puzzle with fresh eyes and the missing word becomes clear.

In the old days when folks my age then were taking acid and dropping out, the guide words were  to pay attention to "set and setting." Set had to do with having the right attitude and support entering into the experiment, and setting had to do with dropping acid in a friendly spot that would support a positive experience.

To deny that where we are has impact on how we think is foolish.

I was listening to a report on NPR about how the right introduction to a standardized test can cause minorities and women to perform several points higher. Given the right verbal cues at the beginning of a test can equalize test results between races and genders. This calls into question, yet again, the ridiculousness of American subservience to the standardized testing industry.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

On the sanctity of all life.

We claim that human life is precious. Non-human life not so much. Yesterday I visited with a local farmer who raises chickens. They are delivered to his farm and six chicken houses 159,000 at a time as baby chicks. In 8 weeks chicken catchers arrive to gather them for slaughter. The chicken catchers grab them by the legs and pack them in crates for transport to the processing plant. Then they are killed, plucked, dismembered, processed into nuggets and fed to you, my dearest readers. So when it comes to the sanctity of life, it's best not to allow living chickens to enter into your thoughts.

One of the intended purposes of Froebel's Kindergarten was to bring children into an understanding of  all life,  so care for small animals was part of that process. And so I guess you can see why following Froebel's original vision of Kindergarten had to be abandoned: to make way for the industrial processing of kids.

In order to get chickens ready for slaughter in 8 weeks, the baby chicks are first introduced to just one end of the 42 ft. wide chicken house. An automatic feeder delivers an unending supply of feed. As the chicks grow, the length of the feeding area is extended again and again until reaching the end of the 300 ft. long chicken house. I forgot to ask what they do with the poop. Is there some way that they remove it during the 8 weeks? Or are the chickens you'll eat simply wading in it the whole time?

The farmer told me that if some of the chickens are not dying of heart attacks during the process, they are not feeding them at a fast enough rate. And so what I describe may seem quite normal to some and quite disturbing to others.

The world is a morally complex place. Learn about it.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.