Tuesday, May 11, 2010

can kids play with fire? please?

It turns out that consumer electronics products are addictive. Children can't resist text messaging as they drive or as a distraction in class. They say they can't be separated from their important connections. The article I posted yesterday from NPR explains some of it. One adult, lecturing to a class on the dangers of texting and driving, discovered a child texting surreptitiously under her desk. Nearly every teacher in America has had the same experience.

In the meantime, a jewelry making class at our local public high school was canceled because it required students to use small acetylene torches which were considered too dangerous. Kids could not be trusted with fire.

In Oakland, CA, one interested in hands-on learning should visit the Crucible. Reader, Larry Gallagher sent the link and recommendation. At the Crucible, children can make, fix and modify bikes, and adults can learn to weld and forge. In one program, children use grinders, acetylene torches and arc welders to modify bikes.

If as overprotective adults, we fail to put real tools in the hands of our children, thus stifling their creative powers we push their natural hands-on inclinations into the realm of real danger... That of complete distraction from the real dangers of physical reality. The use of the hands is hard wired to the brain. To manipulate objects with the hands and fingers is an essential human activity. Shall we use our hands and fingers to become physically creative and expressive? Or must we leave our children addicted to the canned uncreative expressions of consumer culture? Cook, fix, make, plant, sew, cut, grind, weld, shape, saw, nail.

"The function of the artist is to express reality as felt."
-- abstract painter Robert Motherwell


  1. I bought my 1956 Walker Turner tablesaw at an auction at the local school when they liquidated their woodshop. (Incidentally the school my wife graduated from almost 20 years ago.) They did build them to last back then!

    It's awful the direction schools are going with this... The only hands-on program left is Future Farmers of America, and they spend more time fund-raising than learning farming because they have no funding! Or the students have to fund it themselves on top of the taxes their parents have to pay.

    We have to teach our children creativity on our own. Last weekend my son and I built and painted birdhouses for mother's day. I've heard of parents who won't allow paints in the house, play-doh, or sandboxes. And we wonder why we have to drug them.

    Keep up the great posts!


  2. Its true, there are parents who won't allow play-doh, or tools of nearly any kind. Scissors are ok if they are dull and don't work.

    When kids are very small, let's pretend is something they love. But even then, using real tools gives them a sense of the material qualities of the universe. When kids hit middle school they want to do real things with real consequences, but we keep their lives filled with lets pretend video games, ever bloodier and more violent.

    Talk to a kid and they will tell you all about the games, and can talk endlessly and pointlessly because they have little of real substance in their lives.

    We are making our children depressed, and dumb, and our nation intellectually impoverished by what we have done to schools, so parents in their right minds would know the need to take matters into their own hands.