Sunday, January 22, 2017

a simple formula for education reform....

This next Friday I've been invited to join a group of "fellows" of A+ Schools, the purpose of which is to bring arts education back to Arkansas Public Schools. The idea is that arts make a difference. When students are engaged more deeply in learning, they have a greater likelihood of following through to graduation, and that the arts have, therefore, a important role in re-energizing education. Therefore, based on the A+ model, the arts should be integrated throughout schooling and in every classroom activity. I believe it.

I was invited to join because some had thought that woodworking should become an important part of the mix of available arts. But it is my intention to bring more to the group of fellows than that. If you understand the role of the hands in learning, then the arts are a no-brainer. You see imeeediately why the arts are essential and where they fit in. The same applies to auto body repair, laboratory science, travel, field trips, music, gardening, the care for small animals, dramatic performance, cooking, internships, and yes, wood shop.

While asked to supply woodworking to the mix of available arts, my point is not to offer one more activity to fill the school day, but to make certain that the hands are engaged usefully in every minute of a child's education.

The engagement of the hands is the measure we human beings use to discern a firm foundation for reality. To learn hands-on is to learn "first hand" from reality itself.

The oddest of all possible things in education is that every educator will know him or herself as being a hands-on learner and point to particular moments when the reality of that was made clear, and then our of laziness, misdirection or lack of training allow education to proceed as an abstract endeavor. With a bit of encouragement, even history teachers can teach hands-on.

Yesterday my wife and I went to rally with 10,000 or so advocates in opposition to the trump administration. It was energizing to be with people who share our values of love and consideration for each other.

My simple formula for education reform? Use the hands to leverage reality in
to learning. 

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

about the weather...

Winter weather is a common topic of conversation in the midwest. Last night I was at my nephew's wedding and we were talking about how mild this winter has been. An old gentleman interjected that it has nothing to do with global warming. He suggested that when the earth emerged from the last ice age, there were no automobiles in sight. I suggested that he become more acquainted with science, scientific method, etc. But in his mind, science is corrupt.

I wish good luck to us all. Education in which right and wrong answers and not scientific method are the primary fare, leaves citizenry so seriously misinformed that the world is put at serious risk.

During the turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th, it was recognized that an informed citizenry was necessary to the safety of democracy. In order for citizens to be fully informed, students (future citizens) would require a means through which to sift and sort information to get at the truth. That meant in part that they would be engaged in learning not just what they were told by others, but through direct engagement in reality.

Charles H. Hamm had said that the mind seeks the truth but the hands find. That is only true to the degree that the hands are actively engaged in the search for truth.

Woodworking and crafts were part of the means through which aptitude would be constructed as a foundation for greater understanding. One cannot whittle a stick without observation, reflection, and the use of fundamental scientific method. But for those whose education stopped too soon, on platitudes and facts, and without reflection, the world is simply a place where you believe what-ever-you-want, with the beliefs that guide your participation in democracy are derived from your tv network of choice.

Make, fix, create and pray that others learn likewise

Friday, January 20, 2017

lovely tine...

I received this lovely tine box from friends in Norway. It is a treasure box that needs no treasure inside. It is made of spalted alder and willow and laced with birch root.

Tiner, have humble beginnings being used in the making of cheese. They became symbolic of Norwegian culture and craftsmanship, just as the dala horse is a symbol of Swedish craftsmanship.

Unlike Shaker boxes that are all made to exacting formulas, tiner were made in hundreds if not thousands of small villages by thousands of individual craftsmen over many generations, so they were diverse in design, just as our students should be allowed greater diversity in school.

I am in Lincoln, Nebraska for a nephew's wedding. The box I finished last week is a gift for him and his bride. Tiner, too, were used for gifts at the time of marriage, and many of the antique tiner you may find on eBay will be dated in celebration of marriage.

Next Friday I take on a new volunteer assignment as a "fellow" with Arkansas A+ Schools. I have mentioned A+ before as their mission is to place the arts in a more central position in education. I hope to convince a few art teachers that the true mission is more than just the arts, but to simply place the hands as the primary focus of educational attention. The mind seeks the truth and the hands discover it. Where the hands are engaged education moves from abstraction to certainty, And when the hands are engaged children are lured to deeper engagement. When the role of the hands in learning is understood, there is no question for the necessity of the arts. It is a simple formula. It is easy to try. But first we have to remove schooling from the tyranny of testing and cut children and teachers free to learn real things, by doing real things.

Make, fix, create, and offer others the excuse needed to learn likewise.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

diverse interests – exceptional possibilites.

Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary America, John B. King Jr. said:
Finally, we must recognize that the growing diversity of our people is an asset, not a liability, and support diverse schools. Diversity helps more children succeed, broadens their perspectives, and prepares them for the global workforce.

I am convinced the growing conflicts in this country over race, religion, and language would be profoundly reduced if our children learned and played alongside classmates who are different from themselves and if they encountered diverse teachers and leaders in their schools.
In support of Kings' remarks, there are some structural changes that must be made in schools to be able to sustain diversity and diverse interest. First is class size. No teacher with 20-25 students or more in a class can provide for diverse student interests to be cultivated and met. Second, we must firmly reject the teach to the test mentality that is destroying education and stifling diversity and student interest.

Adding hands-on real subjects would be a no-brainer, not meaning that the brains are not required, but that anyone with a brain would not question the need for hands-on learning. We need to restore the arts, music, laboratory science, home economics and more, and then make direct attacks of each of the academic subjects, seeing that they too are taught hands-on.

I wanted in the photos at left and above, to simply show my lovely walnut workbench.

Make, fix, create and offer the opportunity to others that they may learn to love learning likewise.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

shaker boxes and guitars...

Yesterday morning my high school students worked on their Shaker boxes and are nearing the finish of the project. Their work is not perfect, but what is? It takes doing the same thing over again and sometimes again to refine one's work. Despite having made thousands of boxes, I've still room for growth.

I received a nice note from a gentleman in the UK dying of cancer, who asked that I send a signed photo to his caregiver friend who is a fan of my work and an avid box maker. I am sending a book instead. The note was so thoughtful, and I am choosing to live my life in a counter-trumpian universe, unfettered by xenophobia, racism and divisiveness, and in which people speak kindly of each other.

Donald trump, it appears, was elected at least in part by those seeking an unfettered right to be ugly in speech and deed toward those who may be slightly different in some way from themselves.

Where some build walls, you and I must build bridges instead. It's not a matter of being politically correct. It is a simply a matter of being purposefully kind and respectful toward each other in order to build a better nation.

I am also finishing my guitars so that they can be shipped to the publisher for taking cover photographs. I figure I'll have to ship about 12-15 of them in a very large box.

This morning, my middle school students will work on the lathe.

If you are on facebook, you can find me there, too. If you've not visited my new website, Check it out. 

Make, fix, create, and delight in helping others learn likewise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unseasonably warm

It is unseasonably warm here in Arkansas. We've had little in the way of winter. My supply of firewood for the wood stove is largely untouched. In the meantime, the incoming trump administration promises to limit the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, dispense with clean energy regulations, and thereby promise much more of the global warming that threatens the whole world.

One of the basic purposes of incorporation is to limit liability to investors allowing the corporations in which they invest to do massive damage without the investors being held accountable beyond the value of their investments. So when corporations do bad things with enormous effect, the burden falls on the poor, the environment, and the tax payer. Despite what Republicans claim, governmental regulations are a very good and necessary thing that should be strengthened, not made lax.

My wife suggests that I keep the blog non-political. On the other hand, part of my mission here is to promote hands-on learning AND the protection of the natural environment in which trees play such a huge role in protecting life. Global warming has disastrous effects on our forests and deliberate efforts to lie about it, and reverse progress in combating it must be addressed.

I can not sit by while an illegitimately elected president pushes an agenda that is directly destructive of our forests and our trees. It appears to my friends outside the US that Americans went crazy in electing donald trump. I concur. A majority of persons in our nation oppose the man, and will continue to do so. A friend from Norway expressed his concern as follows: "Commiserations on your new president. What can I say, I am still 'gobsmacked' that he was elected, but then, was he, really?" And there's the rub. The man was elected by the slimmest of margins with the head of the FBI's thumb pressed on the scale, and with interference by Russia, a power hostile to the US.

And yet life goes on. Today at the Clear Spring School, my high school students will begin working to stabilize the garden fence under my instruction. Some will be finishing their Shaker boxes.

Make, fix, create, and extend toward others the proclivity to learn likewise.

Monday, January 16, 2017

holiday challenge...

Entry 1. Alan Johnson
This year at Marc Adams School of Woodworking I announced the second holiday challenge in which students were to attempt to earn prizes by submitting photos of boxes they made after the class and using what they had learned in the class.

Eighteen students were invited to compete, and three submitted entries. That's convenient, because there are three prizes, and each entry is a winner.

Entry 2. David Hoffman
We decided to make the contest this year a non-trumpian equal opportunity affair in which the winners would be selected by drawing. This helps me to avoid judgment and simply appreciate and reward those who carry on and use what they have learned. In any case, however, each did excellent work that each may be proud of, with or without external rewards.

David Hoffman (open)
Robin Mistry
Robin certainly deserves an award for most productive, if I were to award one.

The actual assignment of awards will be made by random number generator later in the day. The selection could be made by putting three numbers in a box.

Today I am off from school as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday.

Make, fix, create, and delight in observing others learn likewise.