Monday, February 25, 2013

How smart are we?

Perhaps a better question would be, how are we smart? This short article about animal intelligence suggests that we've been underestimating the intelligence of other animals. We tend to be surprised when confronted with their intelligence, and the things they can actually do in the wild. They can't read or write words or numbers and thus are regarded as being dumb, whereas we've been the ones to make the biggest mess of things.

Pestalozzi warned of an education based too much on words, language and artificial understanding, and things became worse when we isolated the education of the head from that of the hand, left wissenschaft devoid of kenntnis. Pestalozzi used the term "Fertigkeiten" which for him meant the following:
(1) acts, actions; (2) powers of doing, skill, practical skill, technical skill; (3) practical ability, abilities, faculties, capacities...

He noted "We are far behind the greatest barbarians in the A B C of acts or actions (gymnastics} and their skill in striking and throwing," etc. " These contain the foundations of all possible actions on which human callings depend." (2) "The people do not enjoy in regard to culture in skill (technical education) one scrap of that public and universal help from government that each man needs. In no way do they enjoy the culture of those practical abilities" (3) "The abilities (capacities, talents, etc.) on the possession of which depend all the powers of knowing and doing (Konneri) that are required of an educated mind and noble heart, come as little of themselves as intelligence and knowledge."
Pestalozzi believed that "doing has a double function; by doing thought is expressed, and by doing thought is also gained and made clear." "Knowing and doing are so closely connected that if one ceases the other ceases with it."

Today on NPR, reporters talked about that crucial time between school and home in the afternoon in which proper diet and exercise go to hell for kids. Too many live in unsafe environments in which they do not get any exercise, and their after school nutrition consists of snack foods. One woman talked about her grandson who is short, but weighs over 300 lbs. "A sweet child," she said of her grandson, whose father had recently died of a heart attack at the age of 38. There is a high degree of stupidity at work in American education, and in American culture. Children need to be physically active in schools, and continue a high degree of physical activity when they arrive home.

Some would think that Pestalozzi's writings from the 18th century would be irrelevant today. But while our technology has advanced, we are the same human beings that evolved centuries ago. The teachings of Pestalozzi should be remembered, if for no other reason to remind us that little has really changed in American education. Perhaps in the big scheme of things, we can be pleased that education is no dumber than it once was.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students made more bluebird houses. They are tending the bluebird houses at the Corp of Engineers Park at Beaver Lake and found that even more are needing replacement. This batch will bring our total for the year to 8. The CSS high school students worked on their box guitars. They are excited to be nearing completion.

Make, fix and create...

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