Sunday, January 19, 2014

the sources of nobility...

Today at the UU Fellowship of Eureka Springs, our guest speaker from the University of Arkansas spoke about the barriers and challenges of social class in the US. At one time, manual arts training classes were understood to have as part of their purpose, removal of class barriers by giving students from all walks of life, a sense of the dignity of all labor and an understanding of what it took to become skilled, intelligent and proficient at what would have been commonly thought of in disparaging terms by the upper class. The great idiocy of the current age in American education is that administrators and teachers no longer seem to have any concerns for those who have really built this nation through skilled hands. It's not that they are necessarily heartless for those trapped in the lower classes, but rather, being out of touch with their own hands, they seem convinced that all must be pushed toward college. Not a bad idea, but by insisting on abstract academics rather than hands-on learning, they push kids away from learning and schooling in the first place. The following is from the 1893 “Report of the Commission appointed to investigate the existing systems of manual training and industrial education.”
“The educational theory sought to be realized through manual training is no new theory, nor is it now for the first time engaging general attention. It has been a theme with educational writers from Luther and Comenius down to the present time, and there are to be found in the books frequent passages which recognize the value of manual work in the education of youth, — even of youth whose situations in after life would preclude their using their acquired skill for industrial ends. Thus has the learning of trades been prescribed in the education of princes. Rousseau would have Emile learn a trade, that his pupil might acquire a more valid title of nobility than any he might inherit from ancestors.”
The interesting thing is that children of all social classes find greater enthusiasm for learning when they do real things. And it is the great stupidity of American education that we warehouse children, all the while neglecting the development of their critical thinking skills. Those skills come when students are asked to do real things.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others be educated to do so.

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