Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Berryville Rotary

I was a guest at the Berryville Rotary meeting yesterday where I was invited to speak. All were respectful as I went on a bit beyond the normally allotted time. Education is a matter that is of interest to all. In my news each and nearly every day I've read of gun violence in schools and about the epidemic of anxiety and depression among  our teens. Our children are overwhelmed by their engagement in social media and they are not being offered means through which to attain and maintain the better mental health offered through the arts. 

Schools have become places where students are constantly controlled while being measured in reading and math and the pressure is on. The pressure is on. The pressure is on. And we really need to pull the plug. I told my audience about schools in which play is intentional, as we all learn best when our passions are engaged. When we are at play, doing things for which we feel passion, our whole beings are placed in a state of alert and learning is at its best.

There's a whole lot more going on in education than can be covered in a thirty minute talk, but the answer to the problems of education can be found if we each reflect on those moments that have been most instructive in our own educational experiences. When did we learn best? What were the pivotal moments that gave direction to our own lives?

I told the audience of my own "pivot point" when my friend Jorgy made the suggestion to me that my brains are in my hands. The truth is that the hand-brain connection is there for each of us, and we learn best when our hands and whole beings are doing real things. When we are willing to arrive at our own understanding of our own learning experiences we'll not need educational experts to dictate what schools must become. We'll turn them into laboratories where children (and teachers) learn by doing real things.

As I mentioned to the Rotary members, real learning can be messy and noisy, and the noise and mess are what you see when students are fully engaged. Get over it. Would you rather see kids depressed?

A member of the audience asked a particularly interesting question about gun violence directed toward schools. I can tell you of specific instances when I was bullied at school by both students and adults. The pressures to perform and conform can make schools a hostile environment for teachers and kids alike. Gun nuts will claim that school shootings are due to schools being soft targets. My own urging is that they become softer places, where playfulness expressed through the arts is allowed to come forth and students are allowed greater opportunities for personal growth and deep engagement.

In my wood shop I've been making pattern-veneered lift-lids for boxes as shown. The residue of veneer tape is from holding the pieces together as they were put in the vacuum press.

Make, fix and create...

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