Sunday, February 09, 2014

drawing and seeing...

drawings used to enhance powers of observation
I've been reading about European schooling in the 19th century, European Schools: Or, What I Saw in the Schools of Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland, 1888, by Richard Lewis Klemm, an American reporter who had toured Europe in the 1880 for the purpose of acquainting the American audience with European schools and methods of education. Klemm described two very important ways in which European education at that time differed from what kids get in the US today. First it, was hands-on in nearly every nation, with each offering manual arts training for men and women. Secondly, most schools placed a heavy emphasis on drawing as a way of learning and seeing accurately and in detail.

The loss of drawing in school is a particular concern. Through drawing children learn to become astute in their observations, to see clearly and to represent accurately. If a picture is worth a thousand words, we're crippling our children's powers of observation and expression by not having them draw. It's like having their hands tied behind their backs. Skill in observation that comes from drawing applies to engineering, math, science, medicine, each and every trade and every construction or manufacturing endeavor. The object of drawing is not to become artists, but to see with some degree of accuracy and truth. These days having the capacity to observe real life is far less important to educators than is the ability to read the second-hand recorded observations of others, and then filling out bubbles on standardized tests as evidence of what students have "learned." It has gotten to the point that if we can't measure it to the nth degree, we don't bother to teach it. Compare that with what Klemm found in Europe.
Nowhere in Europe do I find daily marking of lessons resorted to. The teachers are not marking-machines, but are earnestly engaged in teaching, helping, suggesting, asking, directing, watching, etc. There is a total absence of that detestable immoral competition which so often plays havoc with our pupils in America. Reports (Zeugnisse, testimonials) are sent home at the close of every term; but they express the grades of the pupils in such terms as very good, good, satisfactory, poor, very poor, or similar ones. The prevalence of such terms as "very good" and "excellent" stamps the report No. 1. If the greater number of submarks is good and mediocre, it is called No. 2, and so on. Reports such as are given out in America, that express shades of differences by tenths of a per cent, are wholly unknown here.
Klemm's book is fascinating and would be useful to modern educators if they were open to understanding the value of history. Instead, they're tying to find new ways for iPads to take over the odious task of getting kids involved in further distraction from real life.

In my reading last night I got to the point in the book at which Uno Cygnaeus death in Finland had occurred. Klemm recognized Cygnaeus (as no educators continue to do) as the father of an educational awakening. But the world went back to sleep.

Today, I will be getting work ready for school tomorrow. The children and I lost a whole week of school due to snow and ice. Continuing weather conditions may cause us to lose one more day. In the event that school will be happening, I must be ready for it.

In my home wood shop, I am beginning work on an article for American Woodworker, and must get my outline and photo shot list off to the editors for their consideration.

Make, fix, create... do not deprive your children and grandchildren of the encouragement to do likewise.

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