Friday, December 10, 2010

preservation and transmission of human culture

There has been a great deal written on both sides of the gaming divide. Millions of dollars has been poured by the computer gaming industry into the idea that you can put kids and computers together and they will learn on their own. Trained and highly qualified teachers need not apply. The "hole in the wall" experiment gave computer sales and marketing execs spasms of delight. Maybe we could get rid of trained teachers and just connect kids to information through wires and diodes. Instead of teachers, we could have education accomplished by programmers, preferably outsourced at that. The experiment isn't over yet, is it? And I write on my iMac that computer technology isn't all bad.

The photo above shows children gathered around their grandmother teaching very intricate embroidery that is associated with small villages in Thailand. The children's hats and clothing are her creative cultural expression. At one time, children all over the world watched their grandmothers and grandfathers at work. Now contrast that with the one laptop per child movement in which children are being given laptops to connect them with the internet. Does that mean that granny, her skills and culture are no longer of any interest or concern? Does having a laptop negate the learning and sharing relationship upon which human culture had been lastingly forged?

The question is how can we have both? Will we get to a point at which the high tech is brought into balance by what we do,  demonstrate and teach with our own hands? The important thing about skill and information passed directly hand to hand is the amount of loving culture and emotional nourishment that passes along with it. Teachers gain a sense of fulfillment and nourishment from the relationship established by teaching, and students gain a sense of their being in the midst of important, transcendent relationships invested with all the riches of cultural possibility. So, in the midst of revolution, don't forget to make, fix, and create.

Today in the wood shop, I work on small cabinets. At noon, we build a bonfire at Clear Spring School in honor of our development director who died of cancer on Monday. Here at my desk, I will work on drawings. I reflect on this wonderful technology that connects us with each other, but observe that it is made so much deeper and richer when we have work shops, kitchens, gardens through which to engage our hands in the preservation of human culture.

My right hand is sore at the wrist from cutting pins for dovetails on a maple cabinet. I am 2/3 complete with the sawing, and to mark out the pins and make the cuts with a dozuki saw took a total of 15 minutes. Add 5 more to finish the job, and with abut 25 minutes of chiseling, the pins will be ready to mark the tails on the top and bottom. It is amazing that you can do things in a morning exercise in the wood shop that can last centuries if what you've made was made with care and with an eye toward useful beauty.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:59 AM

    Oh, ouch. Maple will make you work! Nice work, though.