Saturday, October 17, 2015

A solution for the inefficacy of conventional education.

Anaxagoras holds world in hands
The hands are the primary means of engagement of mind in the world. If you have any doubt of this, take a few moments to observe a child at play. If your doubt is not erased by those few moments, take a moment more to observe your own hands. Not only do they sense the reality that surrounds you, they test and frame whatever thoughts you may have. On the less conscious side, observe how your hands move (and are required to move) as you speak. Gestures draw forth ideas that may have been hard to pull from the mind. Gestures express to others the force and certainty of your ideas.

And yet, we design educational institutions and classes in which the hand are left idle, and incapable of testing and discerning truth.

The simple first step in overcoming the inefficacy of conventional education is simply to take stock. First come to an understanding of the species of which we are part. The mind and hands of our species evolved simultaneously in coordination with each other as a system for learning and shaping physical and cultural realities. If anyone is incapable of understanding that one simple thing, they do not belong in education.

The second step is to design learning with the hand in mind.

A simple way to do that is to restore making as a primary activity in school at all levels.

I was asked by a reader for a link to Von Marenholtz-B├╝low's book Hand Work & Head Work. This book can be downloaded for any reader, or read from your computer screen. It is also available as a reprint from Nearly all the great wisdom of the past acknowledged the role of the hands in acquiring it. Anaxagoras  (shown above) had said that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands.

The illustration at left is from one of my prior attempts to explain how the hands are engaged in thought.

Today my wife and I (with friends) will attend an open house at Red Fern Studio, where my friend Ed creates beautiful hand blown glass.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others learn likewise.


  1. Creativity opens up so many pathways in the mind. My son, who is not able to buy new things for his sons, is building toys for his boys. A used plastic tricycle has a half gallon plastic jar with screw on lid screwed into its back so his 3 year old can carry home his treasures (like the trunk of a car) and many other amazing features. Non-working small power drills become ray guns (with orange golf ball glued to the end), giving his sons the gift of using their imaginations. What a joy to watch. They will grow up into people who do things.
    Thanks for your blog. Sorry I haven't had time to read more of it. May I borrow your final phrase (Make, fix, create, and insist that others learn likewise.) ?

  2. It sounds like your son has a great attitude and serves as a great role model. My students go to the toy isle at Walmart and are inspired to make, not buy.

    You are welcome to quote form the blog, but I would prefer proper attribution. I have a mission here, and you help with the mission by helping me spread an understanding of what the hands do to enhance learning. Links to this blog will help.