Thursday, August 30, 2007

You may have noticed that there are some things that can be measured easily, and some things that cannot. You can check your bank account and know how much you can spend. You can measure the length or height of something provided you are tall enough, have a long enough measure, or have the right instruments. In reading and writing, you can measure proficiency, speed, accuracy, and reading or writing grade level. Can you measure the beauty in which writing is composed? Can you measure levels of craftsmanship, or the caring that one applies toward obtaining results, either in a specific task or the management of one's life?

There is a great danger in becoming fixated on the world that can be measured. And that danger is greatest when applied to the lives of our children. Our measurements cannot enter the realm of the heart, where passion for learning takes birth and then flight.

The danger I mention is that when the focus of one's attention is on measurement alone, countless other important things are pushed aside. For example, the new focus on reading in kindergarten pushes aside important things like conflict resolution, being happy, self-directed and able to learn through play.

The value of working with the hands, learning through the hands is one of those things that can be difficult, almost impossible to measure. It can be hard for those without experience or inclination to understand. The meaning and depth of it can be described at the margins and edges by craftsmen like myself. So, I urge my readers to take up a knife or chisel, a piece of wood, and begin a personal exploration. In that exploration, you will learn things that are not dependent on the opinions of experts.

By taking learning by the hand and into our own hands we move from the academic and impersonal to the heart of the matter. Learning becomes personal and life takes on greater depth and meaning.

I have been preparing projects for my students to begin next week. The photo above shows the new rack I made for the safe storage and transport of our sloyd knives. Let the fun begin.

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