Monday, September 24, 2012


Another important principle of design is proportion. This should be obvious to most. In 2-d design, proportion may refer to the overall size of the painting. Does it fit on the wall space available for it? Or it may refer to the objects illustrated within it or the components illustrated within objects. That house is too large, those eyes are too big...

In 3-d design, proportion can refer to the size and usefulness of the object. Does it hold the things it is intended to hold? My those table legs are fat, or that part looks so thin and weak! Will it break?

 In 4-d design like that a teacher would use in developing a lesson plan, other concerns having to do with time come into play. Can we make that start to finish in one day? Or is this activity age appropriate for my students in their natural development? Is this a suitable exercise for this individual child? In education, we've hired experts for that and essentially divorced many teachers from the knowledge of child development.

Otto Salomon in Educational Sloyd described the special understanding held by teachers as "educational tact." It is a special knowledge and sensitivity to the needs of each child that comes from mentoring and careful observation.

At one time, education was reliant on observation rather than statistics. For instance, my Kindergarten teacher mother could tell if a child was ready to read by observing whether he or she could skip, which served as an indicator of cross-lateral brain development. But in modern American education, teachers have become curricula delivery mechanisms, too often untrained in subtleties, expected to go through page by page scripts, delivered by the book, with little sense of observed reality. If a teacher does notice a child at the margins, he or she is to refer that child to a specialist, so the child does not interfere with effective delivery of prescribed content.

 Sorry to be so harsh. Most teachers make a profound effort against and amidst difficult circumstances. It's with the current teach-to-the test model of public education that I find fault.

When we fail to see teachers as artists and remove from their training, the essence of design, and instead become reliant on a statistical model, far removed from the children at hand, we are destined for educational failure. We may take comfort in the children who soar from the experience, but then allow to languish as unsuccessful outliers, those who do not.

Today in the CSS woodshop, my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students will be making bird feeders, and the high school students will be finishing their computer cabinets and working on cutting frets for their cigar box guitars.

Make, fix and create...


  1. You may not even be as harsh as the situation demands! The educational system is a mess, and the only idea that comes into some people's minds is to blame teachers.


  2. Blaming teachers and teachers unions is the approach taken by the Romney campaign. I watched him last night. He presents such confidence in his idiocy, it is beginning to remind me of George W. Bush. If you keep lying long enough you get good at it.