Monday, February 24, 2014

the habit of constructiveness

I know I've been stuck on reading William James lately. He made sense in 1899 and still does if policy makers were willing to learn anything from the 19th century

Again and again he returned to "constructiveness" as follows:
“During the first seven or eight years of childhood the mind is most interested in the sensible properties of material things. Constructiveness is the instinct most active; and by the incessant hammering and sawing, and dressing and undressing dolls, putting of things together and taking them apart, the child not only trains the muscles to co-ordinate action, but accumulates a store of physical conceptions which are the basis of his knowledge of the material world through life. Object-teaching and manual training wisely extend the sphere of this order of acquisition. Clay, wood, metals, and the various kinds of tools are made to contribute to the store. A youth brought up with a sufficiently broad basis of this kind is always at home in the world. He stands within the pale. He is acquainted with Nature, and Nature in a certain sense is acquainted with him. Whereas the youth brought up alone at home, with no acquaintance with anything but the printed page, is always afflicted with a certain remoteness from the material facts of life, and a correlative insecurity of consciousness which make of him a kind of alien on the earth in which he ought to feel himself perfectly at home.” - William James, Talks with Teachers on Psychology, 1899.
Today in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, our middle school students worked on theatrical shadow boxes, and our high school students will begin making boxes of their own design.

Outside the wood shop, I've begun the process of contracting to write another book, this one on the making of Kindergarten's Gifts. The book will be interesting to write. It will be a combination of how-to with a look back at the origins and original purpose of Froebel's kindergarten. It will also be something of a marketing challenge in that it will combine woodworking and crafts  and educational theory, and be marketed to teachers and parents and woodworkers.

Make, fix, create and share with others your habit of doing so.


  1. That sounds like it is going to be an interesting book.

    the constructiveness made me think about that small children have always liked to play with sand, but I suppose part of it is because it is easily shape-able, so just by moving some of it, you can actually prove to your young brain that: "I made this happen"


  2. That book will be the perfect mix of thinking and doing. But you're right that marketing won't be easy.


  3. Doug,
    The frame-maker in me couldn't resist stealing this Wm. James quote from you for my own blog entry, viewing it from the standpoint of my own craft: .