Saturday, December 25, 2010

difficulty, accuracy and complexity

Merry Christmas day to my blog readers and hand tribe.

My special gift to you this morning has to do with the theory of educational sloyd.

In the woodshop, I am working on two projects, one involving a higher than normal degree of difficulty as it requires hand skills and experience with hand cut dovetails, and the other involving complexity as it requires a large number of parts, though it is made using rather simple unskilled biscuit joint technology. Biscuit joiners were first introduced to replace doweled joints which required greater accuracy, so they are regarded as a fast, easy technology in comparison to hand cut dovetails and the like. These two projects illustrate a bit of Otto Salomon's theory of educational sloyd.
Move from the known to the unknown,
from the easy to the difficult,
from the simple to the complex,
and from the concrete to the abstract.
Both of these projects will be placed toward the end of the book for these two reasons, difficulty and complexity. So you can see from these examples how the theory works. Moving from the known to the unknown is part of the driving compulsion of humanity. We are adventurers at heart. Moving from the concrete to the abstract is the means through which we best incorporate learning. We best get what we learn when we learn it in the concrete, through our own hands. And so these two principles, first and last, frame the inner two, which offer the means of human intellectual and moral growth.

Call it craftsmanship. Make, Fix, Create.

In the sketchup illustration above you can see complexity even before top, bottom, panels, shelves, doors and moldings are added. And so where does accuracy come in? It is one of those qualities through which we measure success. I was pleased to get some time in the woodshop, even though it is Christmas day. When something gives pleasure, why take time off?

As you can see in the photo, I've assembled the sides, back and front components of the biscuit joined cabinet, and have routed the locations for interior panels to fit. I use a plunge router and a guide clamped in the precise location to guide the cut. The bottom, mid shelf and top will be floating panel construction confined by the dado cuts formed with the plunge router and 1/2 in. router bit.

In this Newsweek interview, Bill Gates, and  Randi Weingarten, head of the American Teachers Union attempted to find common ground in fixing American Schools. Sorry, not a word about the hands, which are just small, often ignored but incredibly useful things at the end of arms that they just don't get yet.

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