Wednesday, October 30, 2013

purposeful awakening of beauty...

In the mid to late 1800's Kindergartens in America spread like fire, in part because of enthusiasts like Milton Bradley. He turned his manufacturing experience toward the making of Froebel's gifts. That in itself was a major endeavor. There were 20 of them. To put the use of color into children's hands, he manufactured crayons in competition with Binney and Smith. He also published the "Paradise of Childhood", a book that explained in detail how the gifts were to be used as "occupations". Those who read here on a regular basis, may remember how Educational Sloyd training used models (objects of useful beauty  made by students) and exercises (tool methods that enabled the child to make the models.) The similarity between Kindergarten and Educational Sloyd (derived from Kindergarten) was the relationship between the concrete form and the abstract activity that is derived from it (in the case of kindergarten) or enables it (in the case of Educational Sloyd).

Both Kindergarten and Educational Sloyd were very much concerned with utilizing the child' innate inclinations to discover beauty in their surroundings and to make it in service of others. In fact, modern day kindergartens in which children are being pushed to read, have nothing in common with the original Kindergartens, just as in most cases school wood shops as they evolved fell far short of the Educational Sloyd ideals. The following is from the Paradise of Childhood, Quarter Century Edition.
"Nothing is plainer to the careful observer of the child's nature than the desire of the little mind to observe and imbibe all its surroundings with all its senses simultaneously. It wishes to see, to hear, to feel, all beautiful, joyful, and pleasant things, and then strives to reproduce them as far as its limited faculties will admit. To receive and give back, is life, life is what the child desires, what it should be led to accomplish with a view to its own development. Eyes and ears seek the beautiful, the sense of taste and smell enjoy the agreeable, and the impression which this beautiful and agreeable make upon the child's mind calls forth in the child's innermost soul, the desire, nay, the necessity of production, representation, or formation. If we should neglect providing he means to gratify such desire, a full development of the heart of the individual, a higher taste for the ideal in it, never could be the result."
While modern day kindergartens are reduced to a single year, and have now become concerned with getting a leg up on reading rather than play, the original Kindergarten was proposed to last 3 or 4 years in the life of the child, and was concerned much more with the cultivation of a sense of beauty, harmonious relationship and craftsmanship rather than with just reading and math. Can you imagine schools in which the creation of beauty and the awakening of the child's sense of it came first? Can you imagine the culture that would arise form such schools?

Make, fix and create...

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