Thursday, July 23, 2009

shop teaching

John Deal writes that he took a boat making class last weekend, that the teacher had been a shop teacher at one time, and the class discussed the loss of industrial arts training in schools. Years ago, if you needed to make a cut with a table saw, there was likely a school in the neighborhood where such a thing could be accomplished. Now schools with shops, and even worse, schools with shop teachers are things of the past.

It doesn't surprise me. The role and value of the wood shop to all students was marginalized long ago. I have a number of friends who were industrial arts teachers at one time or another, so it doesn't surprise me that school shops have gone away. You take a teacher. Give him or her large classes filled with sharp objects, the students being the ones "incapable of sitting still" or "behaving" in their other classes. The administration hopes that the teacher will through his force of discipline and control rescue these kids from the brink by providing something that will at least keep them in school long enough to graduate. In addition to all that, he or she has materials to prep, and machinery and small hand tools to be kept in perfect working order. It is an awesome responsibility and monumental task. Wouldn't anyone rather grade papers and present boring lectures for the same or even larger salary?

The whole problem is rooted in our society's failure to understand the relationship between hand and mind. Use your hands, you get smart. Still your hands, you get educated. Use your hands and get educated and you may change the world. And there's the rub. A grave danger to the status quo.

I watched CNN's Black in America 2 last night which showed children from poverty in Brooklyn traveling to Sowetto, South Africa to learn from and affect the lives of black children on another continent. It was a profoundly moving presentation, and I would encourage all my readers to watch it.

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