Saturday, December 12, 2009

sometimes snubbed?

Last night at my book signing at the Historic Arkansas Museum, a teacher enthusiastically introduced me to her school principal, and I offered my Wisdom of the Hands business card as an advocate of hands-on learning to a chilled response. Perfect counter-point to an evening of eggnog. It was an excellent reminder that as I prepare for my webinar with Michigan educators, that not all human responses are 1. patient, 2. rational, 3. open minded. Often people are swept up, dominated in their own thoughts, under pressures that cause them to respond in ways that limit their perceptions and their openness to new ideas. One only needs to watch American politics to get a sense of how polarized we can become over things like position and power, to the point that we become out of touch with reality.

So what does the craftsman's perspective derived from materials and personal growth offer to the probability that as I present to educators, I may also come under attack from educators who see things only in black and white and are unwilling to grasp the essential relationship between learning and the hands?

Last night's book signing was a small but gracious event. I and my books were a sideline to a museum sponsored competition for tasting eggnog. The "winners" where those whose eggnog was voted best, but it seemed that nearly all were winners of holiday spirit. Over all, those I talked with readily understood the concept of wisdom of the hands. After all, they were standing in the midst of hand crafted Arkansas products. Most had experience to draw upon... of making, fixing, and being in the wilds. There are things that some may not get yet quite yet, but the hands can be patient teachers. One does have to test what one learns in one's own hands for depth of meaning to come clear. There are trees that are not ready for harvest. There are boards in my own shop that still await their perfect use. And yet they are kept and cherished for their correct time to be cut and shaped to meaningful use. In particular, green lumber must be dried, aged and mature prior to successful use.

Life in a small town is special preparation for engaging the larger world of ideas. Here, when a new idea is offered, people often ask, "Whose idea is that?" And some will question my observations for the very simple reason that they aren't derived from the pre-approved sources. I'm not Harvard, and I'm not Yale. But I feel that I can give voice to Salomon, Froebel, Pestalozzi, Comenius, Montessori and others who lived and breathed education before the current round of No Child Left Behind trampling of the American spirit was allowed to infect American education.


  1. Your experience with this particular principal reminds me of a favorite Dr. Seuss quote: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." It is readily evident that you are an open minded person convinced that one person can make a difference so just keep on doing what you do best. On the other hand it is troubling that a "principal" didn't have the courtesy and/or people skills to learn something new.

  2. Dave, perhaps I just caught her at a bad time. She might have been trying to get away from talking about education. Funny, I never get tired of talking about woodworking with woodworkers.

    Dr. Seuss was a smart one. Thanks for the quote. I'll keep it in mind.

  3. I see you have met the opposite side of a comment I made on another post. Obviously more than once, since it came up here. Would be nice if everyone could get together and find what works best for each child/human being.

    Having been an artistic and crafts failure, I know it is not for everyone. At the same time, I know in my day and probably today, arts and crafts are popular with students. They often come to life, with faces that visibly brighten, when arts, crafts, music, and other hands-on work/play is mentioned.

    When all sides of education fail to get together, then before long it is the student who has lost, moreso than the adults who decide what education will include and exclude. No child should be left behind, but too many are being left behind. The child's true talents go undiscovered and unnourished, while being "shaped and molded into what he/she is today. Tell me who is to blame, for this child of clay."

    The quote is from Jimmy Rogers song "Child of Clay." (The Jimmy Rogers famous for "Honeycomb", not the founder of Country Music.)

  4. Wyman, it was said that in Bali, they had no art as they did everything as well as they could. We have divided things into such a mess. There is "art" and then there is "Not art" because we have learned to do so much mindlessly, carelessly and without joy.

    I love the old Dylan line, about being "bent out of shape by society's pliers." But then "its all right Ma, I'm only bleeding."