Friday, June 27, 2008

The hand/brain partnership or system is dynamic. The weight of attention required by either the hand or brain changes in relation to the amount of skill previously acquired. If you visualize the hand or brain as weights applied through attention toward task completion, as shown in the diagram you see that in the beginning stages of skill building, most of the weight of attention is applied by the brain as it evaluates sensory feedback from the hand and eye in relationship to desired objectives.

In the journeyman stage, the hand and brain share an equal load.

In the stage of skill or mastery, the weight of attention required from the brain is further lessened as the hands take on more of the sensory and manipulative processing required. The interesting thing that happens at this point is that the brain's processing power is freed so that the mind can explore, plan, speculate, observe, process, imagine and then guide further creativity and the next round of skill development.

This concept which I have tried to portray in this simple diagram is the basis of Jean Jacques Rousseau' statement, "Put a young man in a woodshop, his hands work to the benefit of his brain, he becomes a philosopher, while thinking himself only a craftsman."

I realize this is an overly simplistic illustration. The hands are not merely these things that are wiggling around at the ends of our wrists. The musculature that drives them extends way up the arms, and by wiggling your fingers, you can observe that musculature at work. Neurologically, the hands are inseparable from normal brain function. So it may be absurd to regard them as separate. It is equally absurd to think we can educate the minds of Americans without paying special attention to the education of our hands.

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