Sunday, May 24, 2015

asking for the return of shop classes...

Material for tiny boxes
Sir Ken Robinson wrote an opinion piece for Time Magazine, Why Schools Need to Bring Back Shop Class. I wish politicians and educational policy makers would wake up and pay attention.
The Education Committee of the US Senate is currently considering the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind. Much of the original rhetoric in NCLB was about improving job readiness and employability. In a tragic irony, the focus of the last ten years has not been on improving vocational programs at all but on testing narrow academic standards. Overall, the impact on students, schools and employability has been baleful. This is the time to change.
The point of shop classes in the first place was that students were lacking in the kinds of fundamental relationships with reality to give them a foundation for academic achievement. Kids find their academic studies to be relevant when they are engaged in doing real things.

Education of hand and mind at the same time can be quite simple, but in the hands of politicians and educational policy makers, this nation has become one of idiots. Whether by stupidity or by design, politicians and policy makers cut the arts, music and craftsmanship from the heart of our children's educational endeavors and put standardized testing in place. If we want our children to grow, the best strategy is not to measure them constantly, but to feed them meaningful and responsible things to DO.

The following is from Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a man who's ideas I've covered previously in this blog.
"...a classical teacher who has no original, spontaneous power of thought, and knows nothing but Latin and Greek, however perfectly, is enough to stultify a whole generation of boys and make them all pedantic fools like himself. The idea of infusing mind, or creating or even materially increasing it, by the daily inculcation of unintelligible words--all this awful wringing to get blood out of a turnip--will, at any rate, never succeed except in the hands of the eminently wise and prudent, who have had long experience in the process; the plain, blunt sense of the unsophisticated will never realize cost in the operation. There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose."
In that earlier time, education suffered from an excess of exhortation as teachers infused in the classics and detached from everyday reality stood upon platforms at the head of classes and strutted their stuff. These days, in order to have large classes measured by standardized testing, successful classroom management makes hands-on learning nearly impossible, thus leaving the teachers time only for guess what? Exhortation. So between tests, we have teachers standing before classes lecturing students in subjects for which the students have little interest and in which they see little relevance to their own lives. It is a formula for failure and furtherance of stupidity.

But schooling can be fixed. Sir Ken described the effects of renewed shop classes as follows:
Students who’ve been slumbering through school wake up. Those who thought they weren’t smart find that they are. Those who feared they couldn’t achieve anything discover they can. In the process, they build a stronger sense of purpose and self-respect. Kids who thought they had no chance of going to college find that they do. Those who don’t want to go to college find there are other routes in life that are just as rewarding.
In my wood shop, I have been cutting and gluing parts that I hope will build into interesting boxes.

Make, fix and create...

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