Thursday, December 19, 2013

how good things happen...

Kindergarten Cottage, Philadelphia 1876
Americans are fixated on a top down education reform. We have major foundations investing billions in charter schools. We have a race to the top that has gone nowhere. According to recent PISA results, education in the US has gotten worse relative to that offered in other nations. Educator Steve Nelson claims that we don't have an education problem, but have a social disease in which we've become fixated on measuring our children's performance and have become distracted from teaching the child. I say the child rather than children, because we've become so fixated on groupings and measuring abstract performance that we forget that each child is an individual and of individual concern.

Yesterday at the Silver Tea, an old friend thanked me for the ideas put forth in the Wisdom of the Hands. She's become a grandmother, and having been made aware of how the hands affect the brain, that the intelligence of the hands requires nourishment, she has also been made aware of the gift that she can give to her own grandchildren, insuring their greater success and that of our nation and of our communities at the same time. Arranging hands-on learning opportunities for her grandchildren has become an important thing in her own life.

I've written before in the blog about  the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition and how it brought three important things to American education. The manual arts movement came to the attention of US educators through a vast display of the Russian system of manual training and through a much smaller exhibit of Educational Sloyd. But one of the most cherished exhibits was a  “Kindergarten Cottage” with an actual kindergarten classroom set up by the Froebel Society of Boston in which a trained teacher, Ruth Burritt, taught orphans 3 days per week. Burritt explained the method to thousands of visitors as the children followed “a typical kindergarten routine of playing, singing, movement games and manipulating Froebel’s gifts.” As described by Nina C. Vandewalker: “The enclosure for visitors was always crowded, many of the onlookers being hewers of wood and drawers of water who were attracted by the sweet singing and spellbound by the lovely spectacle.”

Kindergarten took root in America due to the enchantment of mothers, fathers, grandmothers and whole communities with loveliness  and individualized sensibility as an alternative to the dismal circumstances then present in American education. We are ready for a new revolution... one in which small groups of mothers, grandmothers, moms and dads take a few things back from administrators and politicians and restore loveliness to learning for their own children.

We have only 6 making days before Christmas... Gifts that require the full exercise of makefulness are best. We know now that good things in American education won't happen because of the top down exercise of power, but will come when folks grasp the power we have in our own hands to make things better for each individual child. Today, the Clear Spring School lower elementary will deliver our hand made toy cars to the local food bank for holiday distribution.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Doug,

    It has to feel good to know that your message is getting across, and that a grandmother is not only working with her grandchildren but also spreading the message along to her friends.