Friday, March 09, 2012

to be tested...

We buy new tools that allow us to do various operations with less skill and less risk. For example, a router template allows the craftsman to use a router to cut dovetails with less skill, greater speed and less attention than the use of a dovetail saw, measuring tools and chisels in the old fashioned way. In a sense, this could be viewed as a transfer of necessary expertise from the individual craftsman to the manufacturer. In most cases, original workmen originally created the method, and the manufacturers developed new tools to displace the necessary skill, to allow the worker to do the same work with less attention, greater speed and less skill. We see this all the time as woodworkers buy new tools that promise easy and fast. And yet it is fascinating that as human beings we are not only interested in making things easy for ourselves. There values to be found in doing things the hard way and allowing ourselves to be measured against real standards that signify the making of character and intellect.

There is a natural inclination within each child to do things that are measurably difficult, that allow them to stack up in comparison to their peers and to discover themselves in a positive light. Does it surprise anyone that the tests that children would choose for themselves might not resemble the tests that we choose for them and that we use to sort their qualities and educational destinations? Given a chance, children will try to do real things. They know the difference between what is real and what has been contrived solely for educational purposes.

I will simply repeat what I had said before as quoted at the beginning of Matt Crawford's Book, Shop Class as Soulcraft:
In Schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged. --Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous8:44 AM

    So I must have a bit of the child left in me. My dovetail jig sits gathering dust on a shelf as I work with my saw, mallet and chisels to make dovetails that might not be perfect, but are much more satisfying.


  2. I spent 45 minutes with some of my students splitting a 6 foot long x 20 inch wide poplar log with a sledge, wedges and gluts during my science class on Friday. They impressed themselves.