Tuesday, May 31, 2016

piecemeal

The US Corp of Engineers has named one of the corporate strategies for environmental destruction, piecemealing. The idea is that those terrible things that some corporations would do to us in their greed, can be made more digestible to us by chopping them into smaller chunks that will be more easily swallowed without choking.

We witnessed this during our SWEPCO debacle in which a subsidiary of American Electric Power attempted to run an extra high voltage power line through Eureka Springs, claiming that it was necessary for our own good. They attempted to hide their intent to build a high voltage corridor across the state, at our expense and for their profits and presumed that by dividing their large projects into small chunks they could slip the whole thing down our throats and past regulatory agencies before we noticed. We were very lucky to stop them when we did.

Since we have been facing hog problems of our own, I've become very interested in researching the hog farm that was built on a tributary of the Buffalo River National Park and on helping the Buffalo River Partnership Alliance. We see the same strategies in place over and over again, and in the case of the hog farm, the claim is that it's safe (even though it has been proven to not be) and that it has no impact on the Buffalo River National Park. And this is a reminder that when it comes to certain portions of the government and to some American corporations, there is no limit to stupidity,  malfeasance and greed.

As you can see there is a danger to the powers that be when human beings become acquainted with the inter-connectedness of all things, when they begin to understand their own powers within the universe and find the personal strength and courage to stand up for the principles upon which their own learning rests.

I got a nice email from David Epstein, son of brain researcher, Herman T. Epstein whose work I've referred to here in the blog. As I've noted so many times, schools have become an artificial environment in which children know quite well that they are being manipulated for the needs of fulfilling some societal impulses. Kids love learning. The problem for so many is that they do not like being taught under such estranging circumstances. David Epstein wrote:
Something my father said, but may not have written about as succinctly, was "School is a wholly unnatural environment for children." This he meant, in an evolutionary sense, in that the human organism has been around for a couple million years, and it's only in the  the last couple hundred, that we've begun confining our young in buildings that house communal learning formats.  Sitting all day is in contrast to running, working, helping with hunting and gathering, playing, etc.
Piecemealing is also a term that could be applied to how we school kids. Instead of assisting them as did Froebel to understand the larger aspects of self, and power within communities, schooling can make students feel small, powerless and isolated, most particularly within the larger schools.

Piecemealing, on the other hand, is useful when making something. You divide the process into steps, each related to the next and the next. The image above shows the painting of a scissor tail box guitar in a Jackson Pollack style. The next colors to be applied will be yellow, then black.

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


Monday, May 30, 2016

from the mast of a ship...

A friend in Stavanger, Norway, Knud Lunde, sent a photo of shaker tables he made for an exhibit of his hobby club, proving it is true that woods and woodworking connect us into the fabric of life in ways that should never be ignored.
"One (foreground at left) was a Douglas fir from an 18 m long ship’s mast that drifted a shore on a beach south of Stavanger in 1923. It was collected by a local farmer who cut it in four to use as roof beams in his barn he built in 1924. When his son (a keen woodworker/turner and club member now in his 80’s and still very active) rebuilt the barn in the 1980’s he saved the beams, and gave me a 2m long piece a few years back."
To use wood that was once the mast of a ship, that was then a barn, and then saved for use and shared in the making of even finer things (though nothing might be finer than the mast of a ship) shows how the human imagination and the human spirit work. In woodworking, we tell our stories, drawing connections between things and each other, and in doing so, preserve and nourish human culture, and thereby encourage others in making their own contributions to it and to discoveries within themselves. (Was this what Froebel meant by the term Gliedganzes?) It seems fitting that a Shaker table (an American idea) be made from a mast originating in the Pacific Northwest. For that mast to have shown up in Stavanger, told the frightening story of a sailing ship having been dis-masted at sea.

Norway has a long history of reuse and recylcing, and much of the old trading city of Bergen was built from parts salvaged from old ships.

I have a simple theory as to why students who study science narrowly and in depth, and according to interest perform better on standardized tests than those students who are force fed a broad array of information. While most teachers are trying their best to cover all the information in a text book in its full breadth, students who have journeyed more deeply (and hands-on) into a specific area of study gain a better understanding of scientific process and with it, greater capacity to intuit right and wrong answers. And then there's the passion, too, that arises when a student does real things.

Is that simple, or what?

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to love learning likewise.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

scissor tail

I have taken a break from cleaning to assemble a "scissor tail" guitar, as you can see in the photos above and below. I've formed a small hatch at the back so that the electronic components can be fitted in. The body of the guitar will be painted with milk paints.

The following is from Susan Blow's book on Froebel, Symbolic Education.
The prayer of the hero utters the craving of all human hearts. Everywhere man strives and toils to make his children better than himself. Ignorance is ambitious that its children shall be wise, and Sin rarely so sinful as not to pray that its babes may be unstained. And what father and mother crave for their children, each generation as a whole craves for the generations that are to follow it. -- Susan Blow, Symbolic Education.
This may be the case when normal people are concerned but not when it comes to those in business and government. Folks currently in the financial sector are centered in their attention on short term return on investment. Folks in government are simply concerned with the power they can exert over each other and over us. My new favorite quote is from a letter Amelia Earhart sent to her sister in 1937:
"Given a little power over another, little natures swell to hideous proportions."
In other words, if you are looking for heroes in the financial sector or government, forget about it, and Earhart's observation explain why.

I seem to have become obsessed with hogs on two fronts. First feral hogs have visited our garden 6 times now and it's like having an army of roto-tillers run amok.

On the other front, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality gave and has continued to give permission for the operation of a massive hog operation in the headwaters of the Buffalo National River. In the process of approving that stupid, destructive thing, they've chosen to ignore the fact that karst terrain allows the pig poop direct access to groundwater, which then feeds untreated animal wastes directly into the river, thus endangering the 800,000 tourists who float or visit the river each year. In fact, they have claimed that there is no evidence of karst in sight, even though the site is surrounded by limestone bluffs and fractured creek beds. You would have to be a complete ignoramus or a liar to make the claim there is no karst.

If there were heroes in Arkansas government, the hog farm would have been halted before built, and if built, then not allowed to continue polluting our nation's first national river.

Stupidity is a self-perpetuating cycle that can be passed half-unwittedly from one generation to the next. Failure to engage the hands in learning and making, leaves children out of touch, disconnected from reality, and lacking a basic, healthy sense of self.  It also leaves them disconnected and estranged from the full breadth of human culture, and from the natural world.

Take Donald Trump as an example. On the one hand, he claims that Global warming is a scientific hoax, and on the other hand, that a sea wall must be built to protect his golf course in Scotland that is threatened by rising sea levels. The man is a boor*, a liar and a hypocrite, that many Americans have come to love and support for reasons I'll never understand.

In contrast, deep engagement in learning that comes when the hands are involved can lead to heroic behavior.

Make, fix, create, and extend an invitation that others may learn likewise.

*readers should become acquainted with the definitions of three English words that sound exactly alike, bore, boor and boar. While I have my troubles with boars and pigs in general, the US is having trouble with homonyms. The word boar might also apply to the case in consideration.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

on the dangers of holistic thinking.

One of the things that Friedrich Froebel hoped to instill in children through his kindergarten method, he called by the odd German term Gliedganzes, which meant member-whole. The idea was that a child was both an individual and a member of larger communities consisting of human culture, human economy, and the natural world, including all aspects of nature. So instead of simply teaching children to read and write, he devised a system in which the child would be introduced as an active force within the larger framework of human life.

Froebel's first gift consisted of small colored woolen balls, symbolic of larger things, and larger relationships.The illustration by Lucy Fitch Perkins encapsulates the idea that Froebel had in mind.

Can it be any wonder that the Kaiser decided to ban Kindergartens from all of Prussia? He wanted a system of education that would indoctrinate students and shape them to fit the will of the state.

Holistic thinking can be a danger when corporations choose to exert power. For instance, if we see ourselves as isolated from the things happening around us, we have no sense of our own power (or responsibility) to stand in opposition to corporate stupidity, or the machinations of evil force.

In my shop, I've been cleaning. In the school, shop, I've been cleaning in preparation for ESSA classes.

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


Friday, May 27, 2016

New woodshop design

Last night I attended the reception/exhibit for Plein Air Painters with the ESPA Fest sponsored by the Eureka Springs School of the Arts and the Plein Air Painters of Eureka Springs. Most of the painters had done a painting a day during their visit to Eureka Springs. I was amazed at their accomplishments and the beauty of their work. The festival and exhibit were an overwhelming success.

Last night I also attended a science and music program (Still on the Hill) about the hog farm near the Buffalo River that has been proven to pollute the nation's first national river.

I am reminded of the close relationship between the arts, and historic preservation and natural conservation. The arts form a bulwark against senseless waste and destruction.

The issues are complex. For example, beauty within a community is often nourished by those who care for much more than money, and is wasted and destroyed by greed. On the Buffalo River, the huge hog farm which raises hogs under inhumane conditions, feeds liquefied hog waste directly into groundwater through confinement lagoons, built over karst terraine. The regulatory agency that gave the permit for the hog farm claims there is no evidence of karst, even though the entire area consists of eroded limestone rock that is plainly visible in every direction. Greed closes eyes to the obvious, and the arts are useful to pry them open.

There is always an uneasy relationship between arts and economy. We are often presented with the choice of either making money or doing meaningful things. For instance, most of the Plein Air painters were not in Eureka Springs to make money, but to see and paint beauty. And yet for many or most to pursue their passion, some monetary return must come.

On the subject of hogs, we were visited again last night by feral swine that once again roto-tilled through some of our garden beds. If you choose bacon as part of your diet, please choose your pork carefully to make certain it does not come from the hog farm that pollutes the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Eat free-ranging hogs if you must and remember that hen it comes to greed, the stupidity of governmental agencies knows no limits.

We are in the process of designing the new wood studio for ESSA shown in the image above by architect David McKee. Perhaps if people learn to love wood and woodworking, they will begin to understand and cherish the forests from which wood comes and understand their role in protecting it.

Make, fix, create and extend toward others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

celebration of the child...

Today is our end of the school year program, "the celebration of the child." Kids and our teachers rehearsed all week. It is a lovely event when each student's special gifts are acknowledged. I spent part of yesterday going through photos, and printing certificates acknowledging student growth in wood shop.

This is Plein Air Festival Week at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, so we have painters who've come from all over the US to document the beauty of our area. They compete for awards and recognition. They spend money in town and help others to see the beauty of our area of the Ozark Mountains. The work I've seen so far is lovely, and the festival is enough of a success that it's likely to become an annual event. It has also been a huge amount of work for the staff, with events both during the day, and in the evening hours. Check out the website linked above, and please watch the video showing how beautiful it is here. The scenes of Eureka Springs are well worth the paint.

I must proclaim again and again the role of the arts in sustaining viable community. In 1976, I was the founding president of the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople. We closed that organization in the 1990's to open the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. We were encouraged by older artists who saw the essential role of the arts in building lives and community. Arts and preservation are essential partners in sustaining the quality of life.

Make, fix, create, persevere in the preservation of the past, and build upon it, the love of learning likewise.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

almost summer

My summer has almost started, and yesterday I had my last day of class for the school year at Clear Spring School. My high school students were busy finishing their box guitars and one finished her battery powered amp. In the photo at left you can see the initial drawing used in the design of Ozric's guitar. While some changes were made, the overall design remained true to his original concept. The design will go in his school portfolio.

Today I'll be going through photos of the student's school year, organizing evidence of their learning, and will make a trip to a photo processor so that photos of their work can be included in student portfolios as documentation of their growth.

The standard means of assessment in the US is the distribution of letter grades about which many students care nothing. They know that school is about getting through, as though it is something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But students at Clear Spring have other ideas about schooling and while looking forward to summer activities are not pleased to have school out for the summer.

I have a busy summer planned that I am looking forward to. On June 7, 8 and 9, I'll have an editor here from Fine Woodworking to take photos for two articles in the magazine that will come out sometime late in 2016 or early in 2017. Then on June 15, I'll travel to Marc Adams School of Woodworking for 9 days of class, making boxes and small cabinets.

During the summer months I simply change from teaching kids to teaching adults, and never lose access to the opportunity to create beautiful and useful objects from wood.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn likewise.