Sunday, June 29, 2008

Francis Bacon: It is “esteemed a kinde of dishonour to descend to enquirie or Meditation upon Matters Mechanicall.” The Two Bookes Of the proficience and advancement of Learning, divine and humane. London (1605)

So maybe it's a tradition.

According to this article in the London Telegraph, Ofsted: Children missing out on woodwork Even science experiments are being eliminated from children's education as teaching to the test takes precedence over hands-on experience in schools.

It provides very little satisfaction to note that we in the US are not alone in our idiocy.

It is interesting that in many publications, having information properly footnoted is of greater importance than direct experience in the subject matter, but that has not always been so. The following is from the 2002 WAG Postprints:The History and Technology of Waveform Moldings: Reproducing and Using Moxon’s “Waving Engine” by Jonathan Thornton
Joseph Moxon was the son of the radical Puritan printer James Moxon, who was exiled to Holland with his family from 1637–43. Joseph learned the printing trade from his father, and pursued it on his own after he returned to England. In addition to printing, he made and sold globes and instruments for mathematics and navigation. He designed and cut type, and wrote the first book on the art of printing. With these various activities, Moxon became of necessity something of a jack-of-all- trades. He writes as one who has seen or done all of the things he describes. It is for this reason that his works were so influential...
Thornton's article about an interesting way to carve wave-like forms in wood is a good example of blending academic research with hands-on efforts at duplication of technique. Like the archaeologist who learns to nap flint in his efforts to better understand the artifacts and peoples he studies, the path of the maker is a bit different from that of the purely academic researcher. We take things and test them in our own hands. If we have an idea, instead of searching old literature, we try things in the woodshop or outside the conventional classroom. There may be some redundancy in our efforts. There may be some mistakes made. But what we report as our findings will have the ring of truth that emerges from the sincerity of our efforts.

As we strip our schools of hands-on activities and learning, we also strip our next generation of researchers from understanding the necessary and fundamental relationship between research and first-hand observation of subject matter. Just how dumb can we get? We'll see.

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