Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What American Schools should look like...

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy."-John Dewey.
And so, if you were to make an assessment of what American schools should become based on the schools that the presidential candidates chose or have chosen to send their own children, what you would find would be schools vastly different from what they propose for the rest of our kids. For instance, Belmont Hill, where Romney sent his sons, offers woodworking and a variety of other arts you will not find in most schools. At Belmont Hill you will find classes averaging 12 students or less even though Romney claims that size doesn't matter. There, the annual tuition cost is $34,500, or nearly 5 times the amount of money allocated per child in American public education. But don't expect either candidate to ask for the kinds of support that schools would need in order to offer the education to all that they chose for their own children. President Obama's children attend Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, a great school where the current tuition rate is $32,069 per child and they maintain a class size of 10 in the lower grades. And there you find what is the great shame of American education. We've long known what it takes to bring the best education to each child, and are unwilling to make that investment.

Most of the early educational theorists in both Europe and the US believed that the education of the hand was as essential as the education of the mind, and that the most successful education of the one could not come without the other. Augustus Herman Niemeyer was a professor of Theology at the University of Halle who proposed that education should promote the harmonious development of all the faculties with which man is endowed. For this he recommended the use of manual arts:
"Aptitude in various handicrafts strengthens the body, and, at the same time, provides a useful form of activity, and serves to occupy the weary, idle hours, especially in the monotonous existence of the household. They can be altered to suit the season. The best of occupations-which cannot be too highly recommended-is gardening, which which almost everywhere, and especially in the country, offers most convenient and most agreeable opportunities. Health is gained; the young gardener learns to labor "in the sweat of his brow"; he lives in close contact with Nature, and learns her laws and her methods better than from books; he has to exercise patience; he teaches himself through his errors; he witnesses a creation of his own in miniature, springing up under his eyes; he finds from experience how much it is worth to enjoy the fruits of his own labor. And at other times other handicrafts, especially mechanical ones, afford entertainment, teach handiness, and exercise the body (and mind). Carpentry is acknowledged to be the most suitable of all, on account of the complexity of the work and the tools, and because it does not put too great strain upon the strength of the young... Above all, it is well that the young should become familiar with the ordinary tools of a household, of which, moreover, one has such constant need-for example, the saw, axe, gimlet and hammer, etc. To keep these things anxiously out of the children's reach is the most certain way to reduce to helplessness, and, in the time of need to make them more liable to injury."
Today, I will be cleaning my wood shops, both at home and at school, preparing for deliveries to Crystal Bridges Museum gift store, and for the Bentonville ArtWalk on Friday and Saturday where I will be selling my work. As you can see in the photo above, my jewelry boxes are almost complete.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous11:47 PM

    Well said....BUT.......TAXES,,will go up 10 to 12 fold to provide an education in public schools equal to private..the child to teacher ratio alone will raise taxes to the heavens...everyone would be tax poor or worse. The average person cannot afford the type school you dream about....you are a dreamer.......

  2. Of course I am a dreamer. Shouldn't we all be? The average person could afford the kind of school I dream about. Clear Spring School has a tuition rate lower than almost any NAIS accredited school in the US. And WE have made hands-on engagement in learning a large part of our essential mission.

    Not all taxes would go up... Only the ones that we should most happily pay, and a Clear Spring School education can be provided for little or no more cost than what average public schools cost per child.

  3. Anonymous7:29 AM

    So, didn't education start out as a one on one process? I don't advocate returning to that for education, but class sizes of 30-40 students are absurd. So we end up with very good education for those who can afford it and something less for the rest.


    PS By the way, the new box is beautiful.