Monday, February 06, 2012

a connection between thought and action...

In schools we try to have kids thinking while sitting at desks that restrain them from testing what they've been informed is true. If we wanted our next generations to be makers, fixers, and otherwise productively engaged in activities that foster security, a caring society, and democratic values, our schools would more closely resemble work shops. Paul Preston of Ed Talk Radio sent me the following link that suggests some in the upper echelons of academia are finally starting to get the point. The Future of American Colleges May Lie, Literally, in Students' Hands.

There is an extremely long history to the notion that the hands make us smarter, more engaged, more persistent in learning... that what we learn hands-on has greater meaning to us, is learned more quickly, at greater depth and to greater lasting effect. At one time the best of American Universities shared an understanding of this truth. These days, liberal arts colleges emphasize that "they teach students how to think, how to be engaged, world citizens—not merely how to do a job." The author of this article suggests:
"I agree that a liberal-arts education provides those intangibles. But maybe it's time that instruction—at least at some colleges—included more hands-on, traditional skills. Both the professional sphere and civic life are going to need people who have a sophisticated understanding of the world and its challenges, but also the practical, even old-fashioned know-how to come up with sustainable solutions."
Some of my long term blog readers will remember 5 years back when my daughter was first enrolled at Columbia College. (She is now in grad school) I began a conversation with Alan Brinkley, President, concerning my naive proposal to add a hands-on component to the core curriculum. Oh, well. Here we are 5 years later, and the core curriculum on the Titanic remains the same. I continue to suggest that if the purpose of the core curriculum is to bring us to a common point of human culture, to leave the development of skilled hands out of the formula, is to sustain one of the worst shortcomings of American education. Early proponents of manual arts understood that to teach all to create useful and beautiful objects was an important component in fostering democracy, as it helped to sustain the shared sense of the dignity of human labor. What would happen if students of one of the world's great universities were to enter their intellectual engagements through the shared framework of humanity that only the hands can provide?

The following article from Scientific American may shed a bit of light on the hands: With a wave of the hand: How using gestures can make you smarter

Today in the CSS woodshop, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students made "Friendship Boxes" and the high school students continued their exploration of making tools.

Make, fix and create...

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