Monday, January 20, 2014

school reform that would work...

Boston kindergarten class with Froebel's gift number 3
The following is from the Boston Annual School Report, 1891:
(d.) MANUAL TRAINING IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOLS. In the year 1891 instruction was given to all the Primary teachers throughout the city in clay modelling, paper-cutting, etc. The value of this teaching is apparent in the work that is now done throughout the city by the little children. The clay modelling, paper folding and cutting, appeals to the imagination of the children and cultivates the love of the beautiful; it also develops manual skill and inventive power, teaching form, proportion, and exactness, as well as dexterity in the use of the fingers.
Can you imagine the investment required if we were to train every primary school teachers throughout the US in their proper role as teachers at the beginning level of manual arts training? It would be less than the billions being wasted now on educational reform. The report goes further and as follows:
In concluding this part of our report, we wish to emphasize again the importance of this new education which is educating the hand and the eye and the mind together. We are beginning to see more and more that thinking begins with things. There are some who may still believe that the outlay for shops and for these special teachers is unnecessary, and that the whole thing is a caprice of the hour. But the number of such is very few, and they show that they have given the matter but superficial thought. The little time that it has been tested in our schools has already shown its value. Nothing else has such power to soften, refine, and humanize rude girls and boys, to lead them to respect others, and to bring out those qualities which will lead them in turn to be respected. In the early spring of this year a class of boys was brought for the first time into one of our shops. They were from homes in one of the worst sections of our city, and for a lesson or two seemed almost ungovernable. But in less than three months these rude boys became so fascinated with their work, that, compelled to be left largely to themselves one day on account of the illness of a teacher, they excited the admiration and comment of some educators who unexpectedly called, because of their ceaseless attention to the work in hand. These few weeks had changed the wild boys of the street into those that were courteous and respectful and eager for advancement. Its value as a disciplinary as well as an educational force has not been overestimated.
Mind and hand, both engaged in learning.
It is highly unlikely that educators of today would see the possibilities here. The wall that academia has built in the exclusion of the hand as the primary instrument of learning... the failure within academia to recognize that the human hand leads, directs and corrects the brain in its exploration and engagement in learning, is a deep subject with deep sociological roots having to do with class and the disparagement of class. It is unlikely that educators of today, steeped as they are in standardized testing will leap to an understanding that the manual arts (which we've too long denigrated and sought to eliminate from schooling) could offer a means for the educational advancement of all. The failure to understand the power of the hand is the true source of failure in American schooling. I know that there are many who don't see a crisis at hand in American education. Well, welcome to Newark.

Make, fix, create, and help others to do so.

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