Monday, February 22, 2016

mindless and mechanical?

It is absolutely true that hand work can be done in a mechanical or mindless fashion, but not to consistently good effect. If the mind wanders the results wander. Cutting along a line requires that the attention be secured to that line, and the craftsman must choose "on this side of the line, or that," when making a finer cut. The same level of mind must be applied to each step in a process, and where the mind is engaged, learning follows. With practice, some of the cognitive activity is off-loaded from the brain to the supporting structure... the position of the hands and body, and the movement of the muscles can become patterned. That is not mindlessness (although it might appear so), but is instead evidence of long term application of mind. The double helix illustration shows the interrelationship between the mindful intent, and the application of technique. The links between the double spirals could be called practice, and that there are so many of them reminds of what Chaucer had said of craftsmanship,  "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne, the' assay so hard, so sharp the conqueryinge." If things are made too easy, how will young people draw satisfaction at the deepest levels.

Knud Lunde, by private email wondered whether Otto Salomon had proposed sloyd for 11-15 year old students due to their having entered the stage of brain development that Piaget identified as formal operational, giving them the ability for abstract thinking. I think that perhaps Salomon's idea as to ages was more related to his thoughts on the whole child. By the time children reach that 11-15 year age in schooling, the tradition had been that they do book studies alone, and no longer had access to experiential learning, except that which took place outside the classroom and that was often in conflict with their schooling. Just as Salomon proposed a rotation between rectilinear models and ones that involved curving shapes, a rotation of activities between experiential and passive is required for the development of mind.

Today in the wood shop, I hope to spend some time discussing quality and mindfulness. I've set up a small gallery of my own work based on objects I made for my tiny boxes book.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the chance of learning likewise.

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