Thursday, December 09, 2010

on the other hand

Yesterday I mentioned a program on NPR in which they were talking about puzzles and the brain. The idea has been that by remaining active in crossword puzzles, the tragic effects of Alzheimer's and dementia in old age could be prevented. The research says this is not the case. As much as we would like these simple things to work, they don't. During the program a listener emailed a comment that when he was stumped on the New York Times crossword puzzle, he would switch his pencil to his left hand and thus get a whole new view and relationship to it, seemingly engaging the more creative side of his brain, and finding solutions that had been beyond his grasp. The radio host read the comment on the air and quickly changed the subject, completely rejecting and ignoring what was to me the most interesting part of the program.

And so it is with the hands. They touch everything, and yet we ignore them and give them little mind and no credit.

My friend at Make Magazine, Dale Dougherty posted a story about the relationship between dropouts and gaming here. The current drop out rate in California for black children is 37%. Oakland has a drop out rate of 40%. Gaming is an important part of the problem. Kids need to be doing real things instead that call for relationships with actual instruction in relationships with real people. Without those, we are failing to engage our children in real culture. Gaming is great for quietly engaging the whiny child, but a poor framework from which to encourage his or her growth as a human being. It engages the natural hand/eye/mind learning system in ways that traditional teaching and traditional human relationships with non-gamers most often do not, and is thus addictive and destructive of real social relationships that unfold at a much slower and more gentle pace. Those are considered boring to a child addicted to the fast pace of computer gaming and the intense concentration required.

One thing that researchers, academics, educators and lay people do not even come close to understanding is the integral relationship between the hands, eyes and the mind. That is one of the challenges I face here in this blog. We take our hands for granted while they do ten hundred thousand things each day. But we will not become the best we can be as human beings, teachers, parents, or citizens, until we begin to re-frame our mental grasp of every aspect of our humanity with the hands included as essential framework in our intellectual understanding. Until we have fully grasped the hands in their full impact on human development, society and culture, we will be playing foolish mind games that can be destructive of our lives and our children's futures. Make, fix, create.

Today I'll be working in my own shop, finishing small cabinets, and writing captions and text.


  1. Anonymous5:44 AM

    It's early registration time at my school, where even though I've retired I still work part time. Sort of weaning myself off after 35+ years as a teacher. What I keep hearing as advisement is going on is a perfect example of the lack of concentration. Too many students want great things, but don't want to put in the effort they require. Can we blame video games and Twitter for that too?


  2. It is quite reasonable for students to have unreasonable expectations if they've never done anything. And then there's reality. It comes wanted or not when you leave school and the comfort and security of the parental nest.