Monday, November 30, 2015

on being led out part 2

We are in a wilderness of our own making in which the structures of society are rapidly removing agency, while we are operating under the illusion of free will. I hope that Matt Crawford's final chapter of his new book will help us whack through the thicket to some clear light.

In yesterday's post, I mentioned Crawford's books and the quote of mine which served him well as an entry point for his first book and concluding dialog for his third. In the third book, he was quite complimentary and called me a "first class thinker about education." But he also suggested in an offhand manner that the educational institutions that exist are working for some. Naturally a motorcycle mechanic with an advanced degree in Political Philosophy would see some merit in the status quo, even if he places his own thoughts at odds to it. I take a contrary view. First, I must assure my readers that I am pleased and flattered that he would spend as much of the reader's time in reflection on just a single quote from this blog, and at such important points in his books. And let me assure you that each of his books is a very worthwhile read.

On the other hand, the system of education based on students sitting confined to desks, at any level, pre-k through university is not working, and leaves even those successful in it and through it crippled in a variety of ways unless they are able to find some means through which to discover hands-on ways to bring balance to their learning processes.  Matt Crawford managed that by keeping motorcycles outside the city dump.  But it is my belief that since many students are not able to discover that balance on their own and have so few examples for it in their daily lives, it should be the job of education at all levels to insure learning at its best, which means in every case and for all students learning should become as much hands-on as educators are able to provide. It is absolutely true that for all students, what we learn hands-on is retained at a deeper level, for a longer period of time  and is therefore more likely to find use than those things that are learned without benefit of the whole body.

So first, let's explore why some student have apparent success in school, giving some the impression that the current methods work. Pierre Bourdieu, French philosopher and sociologist identified capital as being more than just money and financial resources. He identified the concept of social capital, which applies here in that social groups and particular families hold their young to varying standards and some work very hard to place their children at an advantage in schooling. The "Tiger Mother" is an example, and if you were the son or daughter of a second generation immigrant Asian mom, you might dare not perform at a high enough level in school to best your peers. And so even if the game is boring, or rigged, you play your heart out because it matters so much to Mom. The child of the upwardly mobile mom (or dad) will study harder, take learning more seriously, even when bored to tears, and will be provided a great deal of support within the home to make dead certain of success. This sociological principle also applies within the charter school movement in which rote memorization from the 19th century may be supercharged with hand clapping rhythmic response, but the real reason for success if it comes to that is that the students and their parents come to those schools with social capital focused on particular results. It does not hurt either that the efforts of those schools may be totally focused on getting high test scores and that important aspects of learning that are not on the test will be ignored to save time for those things that are.

But does schooling as a contrivance steeped in artificiality serve any students well? And what if we were to restore those areas of endeavor that brought life to schooling by doing real things? I can mention a few. The arts, music, wood shop, laboratory science and physical education. You can pretty much rely on the hands to give direction in this. And even where the hands have not been traditionally utilized to explore learning, as in history, literature and geography, they must be. Where the hands are engaged, hearts soon follow.

The great stupidity of modern education is that the hands are too often kept from doing real things.

Make, fix, create, and extend the notion,  please, that others may learn likewise.

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