Sunday, January 15, 2012

3 Ds...

It appears likely at this point that No Child Left Behind legislation will soon be abandoned, itself left behind, as it seems to have garnered a "D" at best in our assessments of its results. Despite 10 years of effort, it did not live up to its lofty goal of improving education for our nation's students. According to some assessments it did the reverse of what was intended. We still have the same high drop out rate, and we still score significantly behind other nations in the international PISA tests.

The greatest problems in modern education can be summarized in the 3 Ds: disengagement, disinterest and disruption. Schools often fail to engage children's innate capacities for learning. In worst cases, students become disruptive of the educational interests and needs of others. At a very early age, children are instructed, "don't touch!" "Keep your hands to yourself!” But the hands and brain comprise an integrated learning/creating system that must be engaged in order to secure the passions and "heart" of our youth. It is the opportunity to be engaged through the hands that brings the seen and known to concrete reality in human experience. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged. When the passions ARE engaged and supportive systems (teachers, community resources, technology etc) are in place, students find no mountain is too high, and no concept too complex to withstand the assault of their sustained interest and attention. You don’t have to take my word for this. You can see it in action, and while I can describe my own observations, I know that you, the reader of this material can reflect on times when your passions have been engaged in your own lives and your own learning has been at its height.

So what is the answer to the challenge of engaging the heart in education? Get real. Real life engages the intellect and the imagination. Crafts are an excellent way to bring the real world into the classroom. Real tools, real materials, real work, making real objects with real use. The purpose of the woodshop at Clear Spring is to help all the other subjects become real and engage the hearts and the passions or our students in education. You know what? It really works.

Make, fix and create...

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