Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hand in mind, mind in hand...

It seems that life is experimental. On the more personal level, some live long, some die young. Some individuals are met with recognition and success, some struggle long years without either. On the broad cultural level, as we've become rather homogeneous in our addictions to technology, it seems that we keep moving in directions that have unpredictable outcomes. An example is that now medical scientists have reawakened their serious concerns about cell phones, and as my wife and I were talking this morning, we were thinking about our own limited use of them, and our children's much more active cell phone engagement. Do they cause cancer? I guess that is one of those things that we will certainly find out. We spend about half our time hoping that science can be wrong, or that we and our own children can in some way be lucky enough to escape scot free, what we seem to be doing to ourselves.

And what about the hands? The rise of machine tools and automation brought with it the idea that the things that fill our lives can be created without effort and at little cost. But are there no hidden prices that we must pay? If only life could be as simple as we might hope. And it is not. There are those unforeseen consequences that play havoc. They sneak up on us. Life, after all, is experimental.

But what if we were to engage our minds more handfully and our hands more mindfully? They are, after all, entwined throughout our development, as individuals and as a species. Felix Adler wrote in 1883 about his experiment at the Workingman's School in New York City:
"The salient feature of the new experiment is that it introduces what may be called the creative method into school education. The system of teaching by object lessons has long been familiar to educators. It is proposed to improve upon this system by giving lessons in the production of objects. The step forward taken by Pestalozzi, when he summoned teachers to desist from the vain work of teaching the names of things, and to lead their pupils rather to a first-hand observation of things, marked a new epoch in the science of pedagogy. At present, still another step must be taken, viz, from the mere observation to the production of things as a means of acquiring knowledge; and the taking of this step will mark another epoch in pedagogy. Froebel began to apply the principle of the creative method in his Kindergarten. But the kindergarten system covers only three years of the child's life; while, for the school age proper, no valuable and tangible formulation of the creative principle has yet been given...

I have thus far spoken only of the value of the creative method for the culture of the intellect. But we who desire an "all-sided" rather than a "one-sided" development of the child must take into account the aesthetic and moral nature as well; only by the harmonious culture of all three can the larger humanity be perfected; and the creative method must show itself capable of giving a powerful stimulus in all these different directions if it would vindicate its title to the high significance which we are inclined to ascribe to it."
I am reminded of a diver. If you plunge in head first from a great height and do not have your hands positioned to first break water, the impact is painful and damaging. But lead carefully with your hands as all great divers do, and you enter the water beautifully with little splash. So even in the physical realm, the hands are the partner of head. In education, hand and mind are intertwined, except that in our dangerous experiment in education we have forgotten to lead with the hands.

Go against the flow. Row against the falling tide.

Today I am finishing the small cherry glass front cabinet to send to Fine Woodworking and one of the last steps prior to installing the pull on the front is to install rare earth magnets in the door and side. In the photo at left you can see the simple method for aligning holes for rare earth magnets to fit. In the hole already drilled in the door is the dowel locator pin. In the cabinet side, you can see the mark made by the pin.

I drill that hole next, and then using one magnet to hold the other (so their attraction is maximized and not negated), I close the door forcing the second magnet into the hole drilled in cabinet side. The fit is tight, so no glue is required. And no other method will keep the poles of the magnets oriented in the right direction so they attract.

Make, fix and create.

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