Thursday, February 09, 2012

125th anniversary

I'll be mentioning this again as the date of the actual celebration comes nearer. Teachers College in New York City was the first university in the US to offer advanced degrees in manual training, and it can be honestly said that it was originally established specifically to do so. Last year I had met with Dr. Tom James, Provost at Teachers College to discuss the importance of hands-on learning, and he is pleased to report...
"Students have built a natural rain garden in Russell Courtyard, hand-made and lovely, to demonstrate sustainability with native plants. Schoolchildren play and learn in that area, integrated with some of our classes."
This we hope, marks the beginning of a conscious restoration of the understanding that the hands are essential to learning. Tom notes:
"It’s interesting that the first stage in the formation of TC was the Kitchen Garden Club of Grace Dodge and her friends, working with immigrant families in the wider movement that also included the settlement houses. From there it became obvious that preparing teachers for such work amidst the great dislocations of urban life before the turn of the century was a logical next step. TC is about to celebrate its 125th anniversary, so the memory of these origins is highly relevant, among other things showing the deep interconnection between health (including nutrition) and education in the storied past of the institution."
I cannot pretend to have influenced Dr. James in any of this, but we all move through life in need of reminding and find confidence in what we share with each other. When we investigate hands-on learning, we gain a better understanding. When we share what we have learned with others, we may give them greater confidence to investigate on their own and learn as we each best and must do, with our own hands. I had asked to visit Dr. James because I have a belief in history. Things tend to move in cycles. One great thing leads to another. And those institutions that were brought forth for specific purposes will have those same purposes arise again and again through their years. I have a couple earlier blog posts about Teachers College and its role in the start of the manual arts movement in the US. Teachers College and A visit to Teachers College, Columbia University, NYC. Understanding the significance of the hands in learning is not something we can keep to ourselves.

One bright note of the day, 10 states were released from some more repressive aspects of the No Child Left Behind legislation today. The idea that you will strip teachers of creativity and then expect students to thrive through the delivery of canned materials is one of the dumber ideas foisted upon American education.  We all know that folks find the greatest satisfaction in their work when they are offered some autonomy, the chance to feel creatively engaged and to feel themselves part of a trusted team. Any questions about this? Check your own life and recall times in which you felt fulfilled in your work. Are teachers any different from normal human beings? Only in the minds of ignoramuses.

Make, fix and create...

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