Saturday, January 14, 2012

No hands left behind...

Educational Psychologist David Henry Feldman had proposed a new metaphor for education which he called "the Child as Craftsman." The idea was that children hold the potential for excellence in craftsmanship as part of their innate developmental inclination. By neglecting that inner child of creativity that longs for the development and expression of skill, our children are diminished in nature and in character. Any artist or craftsman reading this blog would immediately understand what most educators seem to have overlooked. I urge all to remember sometime in the past in which we may have spent time striving to be good at something... hours at the free-throw line is just one example. The inclination and motivation to find some area in which a child is able to excel is universal.

The child as craftsman is an essential metaphor for understanding our way forward as American educators, parents, craftsmen and artists of all kinds. Becoming a nation of craftsmen requires that we begin to address the matter of craftsmanship with our children and in our schools and homes. This is not a new topic in the blog. I've written about Feldman many times before and of course I never wander far from the topic of craftsmanship. Use the search block at upper left and type in David Henry Feldman to read more.

Currently the No Child Left Behind Act sets standards for reading and math, but there are other important forms of assessment that David Henry Feldman laid out in two steps.
"The first is simply a restatement of the educational aim of engagement in a more precise form; to the extent that greater numbers of individuals find fields to pursue, find work that engages their energies and through which they derive satisfaction, education can be considered to be making progress."
One of the greatest failings of modern education is that of failure to engage, as children either sit bored and disinterested or become disruptive. Feldman's "second criterion of educational progress" follows from his thoughts about creativity. That if
"education is done well, creative contributions will tend to take care of themselves. In other words, an education which fosters sustained commitment, satisfaction and joy in accomplishment will naturally lead to occasions that require one to go beyond the limits of one's craft. To reach the limits and find yet another problem to be solved, a goal to be achieved, an idea to be expressed, a technique to be worked out--these are the conditions which favor creativity."
Feldman concludes:
"I submit that the twin signs of progress toward a fruitful education for the future are; (1) an increasing number of individuals engaged and committed to pursuit of mastery of their fields and (2) the number of novel, unprecedented, or unique contributions that occur in these fields."
This is not exactly measuring to see if students arise at some artificial minimalized standard of success, but rather an open ended model for assessment that recognizes with today's kids the sky's the limit.

I've spent the morning loading a trailer with small cabinets to deliver to the Historic Arkansas Museum for my show that opens next Friday. It feels great to have so much work safely packed and ready to travel.

Make, fix and create...

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