Monday, February 03, 2014


Last night, I had a dream that I was in the wood shop at school attempting to get the kids to study their language and understand the importance of vocabulary. They really wanted to do wood working instead. And I learned something from it. As children have had so much pressure applied to them having to do with learning to read and their enjoyment of words and language has been nipped in the bud, they will necessarily apply themselves more fully to active rather than passive learning opportunities. William James wrote about the importance of language in education as follows, but during a time in which the power of early object teaching was becoming well known and widely accepted.
This general order of sequence is followed traditionally of course in the schoolroom. It is foreign to my purpose to do more than indicate that general psychological principle of the successive order of awakening of the faculties on which the whole thing rests. I have spoken of it already, apropos of the transitoriness of instincts. Just as many a youth has to go permanently without an adequate stock of conceptions of a certain order, because experiences of that order were not yielded at the time when new curiosity was most acute, so it will conversely happen that many another youth is spoiled for a certain subject of study (although he would have enjoyed it well if led into it at a later age) through having had it thrust upon him so prematurely that disgust was created, and the bloom quite taken off from future trials. I think I have seen college students unfitted forever for 'philosophy' from having taken that study up a year too soon. In all these later studies, verbal material is the vehicle by which the mind thinks.

The abstract conceptions of physics and sociology may, it is true, be embodied in visual or other images they need not be so; and the truth remains that, after adolescence has begun, "words, words, words," must constitute a large part, and an always larger part as life advances, of what the human being has to learn. This is so even in the natural sciences, so far as these are causal and rational, and not merely confined to description. So I go back to what I said awhile ago apropos of verbal memorizing. The more accurately words are learned, the better, if only the teacher make sure that what they signify is also understood. It is the failure of this latter condition, in so much of the old-fashioned recitation, that has caused that reaction against 'parrot-like reproduction' that we are so familiar with to-day.”

“Our modern reformers, in their books, write too exclusively of the earliest years of the pupil. These lend themselves better to explicit treatment; and I myself, in dwelling so much upon the native impulses, and object-teaching, and anecdotes, and all that, have paid my tribute to the line of least resistance in describing. Yet away back in childhood we find the beginnings of purely intellectual curiosity, and the intelligence of abstract terms. The object-teaching is mainly to launch the pupils, with some concrete conceptions of the facts concerned, upon the more abstract ideas. William James, Talks to Teachers, 1899.
How many students are "unfitted" for reading by the pressures we apply well before the second grade? It seems that the love of language and the learning of the precise meaning of words and their power is a thing that comes best, not through force but through a more natural unfolding of interests, that we've nipped in the bud by pressuring children to disavow reading.

In New Zealand, one school has discovered that getting rid of playground rules has given the children the greater opportunity for growth and eliminated many of their previous school problems.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study just over a year ago saying that recess — unstructured, outdoor play during the school day — is just as important to student achievement as reading or math class.
Read the article here. On another subject, I am currently in Florida for my brother in law's funeral. His brother was telling me last night that he has just about given up on box making due to how hard it is to make a box. He'd tried and his results were self appraised as crap. His life as a lawyer may have unfitted him for the manual arts, but I was tempted to ask whether he had as yet read any of my books and followed instructions, as I might make things much easier for him.

Make, fix and create... give others the opportunity to do likewise.

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