Sunday, January 29, 2012

[sealed] No user service required...

Opening the case will void your warranty. If you've visited a Toyota dealer lately and looked under the hoods of various models, you will find fields of plastic sealing the motors from view except for places to check the fluid levels. Remember when you used to open the hood and check the belts and watch to see that everything worked? No more. So while it may seem we have the world at our fingertips, we are being trained in disengagement from direct, local, physical reality. The idea is that if things look very simple, we will assume that they are. The message is clear... Everything small and everything complex should be left to the professionals, for fear of our screwing something up.

Friendship box made  in OZ
Is that the world we want for our kids? We start them off as toddlers playing with high-tech wondrous devices, beyond their understanding but have forgotten the equally wondrous play with blocks. I am reminded of a woman who came up to me after I spoke about the Wisdom of the Hands at a conference. She had given woodworking tools to her grandson, but her daughter in law would not let them in the house. Her son, she said, would make a mess. And so she would rather make a mess of her child's mind than get sawdust on the rug.

Keeping our children entertained with digital devices is easier for parents to contend with than tools, easier than blocks. The messes made under glass will  never need to be cleaned up and put away. Cleanup's automatic when the device is turned off. But if we want our children to grow up to be more than just consumers of objects and information, slaves to economic conditions and the twisted notions of those who would control them. We must give them more--  real tools, real materials, real gardens to plant, real opportunities to directly explore physical reality,  if we want them to grow up with any real capabilities and self-confidence in the real world.

Richard Bazeley in Australia has made his own prototype of the friendship box for use with his students that is shown in the photo above. I like his lid keeper design, and that his nails were set and filled, giving a neater look overall. It makes a nice box (approved by Richard's teenage daughter). And it is nice to know that these friendship boxes will be made on the other side of the world from Eureka Springs. You could say that these are international friendship boxes, with the design having now traveled from one continent to another, engaging hands in shop classes in each. Richard used the technique of aligning the sharp edges of the nails cross grain, and was pleased to note that there were no splits, even in pine which is typically more brittle than the wood we've used at CSS.

On a related subject, the Arkansas remediation rate dropped from 52.5% in 2010 to 49.3% in 2011. That means that this last year, only 49.3% of students entering college in Arkansas were not ready for college. The remediation rate, even showing a slight improvement illustrates a glaring failure of our educational system, a waste of money, delayed entry into the job market, and is an embarrassment for our state. The train of thought was that by testing students and holding their teachers accountable for student success, students would end up with world class educations.  But the train of thought left the station without as many kids as we would have hoped. The truth is that world class education will only come when students are engaged hands-on. To state, "engaged hands-on" is a redundant notion. By keeping students' hands stilled and unexpressive of learning, we stifle engagement, nail shut the doors of student interest, and watch the eyes glaze over in boredom. Instead lets:

break, make, fix and create...

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