Wednesday, June 07, 2023

job one.

The first job of education, job one, should be to enable students to achieve and support their own mental health. We see the failings of American education in the dramatic rise in teen anxiety, depression and suicide. The fact that so much gun violence is directed toward  schools, might also be telling us something important. 

While a primary purpose of Froebel's Kindergarten was to give children an understanding of their interconnectedness with nature and community, our increasing pressure on test scores and academic competitiveness leaves children estranged from the very fabric of real life.

To restore education to its rightful place in the scheme of things requires a massive reorientation toward the arts. Quite a few years ago, David Henry Feldman, known for his work with gifted and talented kids, wrote an award winning essay, the Child as Craftsman. It acknowledge that every child is compelled from within to achieve some form of excellence that allows them to feel right in relation to their peers, to measure their own progress and to feel a level of normal actualization associated with the maintenance of mental health. This does not mean that all kids should be doing the same things, but that children in schools need opportunities to excel in a variety of tasks, thereby learning their own likes, inclinations, and abilities, developing skills to fit within the larger framework of life. 

It is quite concerning to me that educational administrators and policy makers are so off base and reluctant to bring real change. When under pressure they cut what's most important in our children's educations... the means through which they find individualized means to achieve excellence. The arts.

I have my third day of box making class at ESSA today. Yesterday I was reminded of bringing a class of high school students out to ESSA to use the black smithing studio to harden knives in the forge. As we drove up and students observed the wonder of the place, one student asked, "Where have you been all my life?" He wondered why all schools weren't like ESSA where you do real things. There's a reason for that. Educational policy makers are as stupid as all get out and communities refuse to acknowledge the importance of the arts. In the meantime, our children suffer from depression, anxiety, suicide and disconnection from the fabric of life.

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