Sunday, March 27, 2011

All hands...

All Hands is the sailor's cry to bring all able bodied seamen on deck to meet the immediate needs of the ship. It is not the cry for idlers and stand-abouts, but states the necessity for immediate action.

American education has been heading for shoal waters for some time. The crisis in education is not new. But, as stiff winds of international competition are driving us to an unwelcoming shore, the cry, "All Hands," is never more appropriate than now. In sailor parlance, the hands are not merely objects dangling loosely at the ends of tattooed arms but serve as a metaphor for the whole man, with all his attention, his training, his skill and best efforts applied.

It may seem odd that each of us have experienced learning something hands-on but then commence to ignore the power of hands-on learning for our kids. From our own personal experience we know that we learn more quickly, more deeply, more effectively, and to greater long-term effect when our hands are engaged in learning. In learning hands-on we practice and apply ourselves and all of our attentions more fully, and yet, we seem to find no reason for our children's educations to be hands-on, no reason to provide them with the actual experiences they need for the practice and development of their own powers.

When we fully understand the value of hands-on learning, we understand the rationale for the arts, for wood shop, for athletics, for laboratory science, and all those things that schools have been dropping from unwary hands like hot cakes.

Schools should be no place for idlers and stand-abouts. I make the call, All hands. If you'd like a simple formula for the restoration of American education, put hands to work in learning. Restore the arts and manual arts to American education. It won't happen easy and it won't happen quick. First step is to make a commitment to hands-on learning. Set it as your goal. You will witness a rise in interest, a rise in passionate student engagement.

Among early educators, particularly those infected with intellectual smuggery, there were thoughts that skill with the hands was the gift that God gave to those who had not received the many blessings of intellectual capacity. What a crock of flaming crap that is. Skilled hands and intellectual capacity are not an either/or proposition. Both come with work, both come with practice. And each has the potential of augmenting and enhancing the powers of the other. The motto at MIT, after all, is Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand). Get the point?

I have further refined my illustration of the principle of scaffolding, and its application to both science and the arts.

Make, fix and create.

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