Wednesday, June 01, 2022

A matter of the senses...

Comenius had put forth his argument that the senses form the core of learning:
"The ground of this business (education) is, that sensual objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit." 
Comenius was considered the father of modern education. And if you look at what other educators have offered you begin to see that Comenius, though ignored these days, has had his theories expressed more recently by others. For instance, Howard Gardner came up with his theory of multiple intelligences, which isolates the particular senses and proposes them as being expressions of intellect. And yet, we have almost completely ignored Comenius' point. Instead of engineering classroom work to offer avenues for engagement of various forms of intellect as is proposed by followers of Howard Gardner, Comenius proposed that children become engaged in doing real things that connected them more deeply to community and culture. ...Making things of useful beauty, for example. Engagement of the senses is key. 

Why are the senses key? The engagement of the senses and the input they provide is the boundary between the concrete and the abstract. It's the boundary line between those things that have been engineered by teachers to instruct, rather than empower. When the full array of senses is engaged, students know that they are involved in real life, which then commands their full attention. Lose the students' full attention, and you've wasted their lives as well as your own.

When students walk into a wood shop, they know it's not a typical classroom. It is full of tools that have the capacity to alter wood into useful and beautiful forms. They are first of all greeted with the smell of wood having been sawn, and they notice.

I want to return your attention to the quote from Comenius to point out that it's not just about career and technical education and applies just as well to those planning to go to college rather than enter into the trades.  .... "the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life."

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