Thursday, February 22, 2018

sandy hook...

On television, we've watched again and again, the same thing. Folks use the second amendment and a "well-regulated militia" to justify owning weapons that have been used in the merciless slaughter of children. There is nothing well regulated about arms sales in the US, except that the NRA uses its political clout and campaign contributions to insure that American politicians do not interfere with the horrid stupidity of having 300 million guns in the US.

As I've said before, hunting is one thing, AR-15's another. Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone wrote a book, "Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun" that offers insight into the escalation of violence in American cities and schools. Form your hand in a fist and observe the feelings within your mind. Hold a stick in your hand and wave it in the air. You will feel a sense of power from such a simple thing. Take a knife in hand and track your imaginings. Then imagine you are holding a gun. You have the power to take your own life or that of another person with ease, and folks have the possibility of becoming infused with darkness of their own making.

Sandy Hook Elementary School where children were killed five years ago is right down the road from Taunton Press and Fine Woodworking in New Town, CT. One of my editors from Woodcraft Magazine also lives in Sandy Hook. So, even here in Eureka, killings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week are not that far away. Today, in fact, I'll review the layout for an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine, knowing that 5 years after Sandy Hook, life goes on, just as it has had to go on for those who've lost loved ones in such horror.

I want people to read the Constitution of the United States and then explain to me why AR-15s and other similar weaponry should be allowed . We do not allow private citizens to own nuclear arms, or even bazookas and flame throwers. And so why should we allow any child to be put at risk by heavily armed gun crazed sick folks? And why should those sick folks have ready access to guns that even sane folks would never need except to kill others at rapid pace?

I am in awe of the brave young people who have stood up to take the lead in the debate. The NRA and all those politicians who've been sitting on their hands and making excuses since Sandy Hook and Columbine had better wake up and finally do something to protect our children from violence in school. If not, they will be brushed aside and as a teacher, I will give thanks.

Yesterday in wood shop at the Clear Spring School, my plan of having the first grade girls make troll dolls was quickly subverted. They turned the parts I had crafted into cats instead. That led to a cat show. Children in schools should be allowed time to be innocent, and teachers should be the protectors of that innocence. And not, as the president suggest, by carrying guns of their own.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

mining tools...

My students in 4th, 5th and 6th grades will travel around Arkansas later in the spring. Yesterday we made mineral collection tools for them to use for crystal mining in Hot Springs. The students are under orders to keep them at school so they will be ready for the trip, but that did not stop them from wanting to test them on our own rocks. If you've made something useful, do you not want to test it immediately in your own hands?

I'm attempting to prove a simple point. If you've done real things in school, the artificiality of testing is not required. And if we gave students the opportunity to do real things in the first place, they would love their time in school. So what are the real things that students can be trusted to do that offer educational benefit? I'll not recite a whole list as there are some you will want to come up with on your own. I'll start with these: science, woodworking, music, and athletics.

While waiting for the M-60  bus to LaGuardia on Monday, my daughter asked what the K-8 students in Finland do in Kindergarten and first grade since they don't begin reading in school until age eight. They learn woodworking, sewing, crafts, art, physical exercise and how to get along with each other. Finland ranks 1st in literacy among nations and allows more time for recess than any other European country. The US, despite the huge attention we give reading in schools and at such an early age, is tied for 7th.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

back in Arkansas

I am back in Arkansas today from New York City and have a whole lot of cleaning to do and preparation for classes.

In the ideal school, students would be learning and testing what they learned in their own hands.

In the typical much less than ideal schools of today, students are "taught" and then administered tests. The tests create anxiety, even through they are just made up as an abstract means to measure transference of information.

In the ideal school, on the other hand, what the students learn is energized by student interest, and the testing is in their own hands as they challenge what they've been taught and test their own ideas in response. Those tests are anticipated with glee.

All of this has to do with a balance. Froebel believed that each bit of information that went into a child's mind should precipitate an active response and we all learn best by doing real things. If you've taken time to observe your own learning patterns, you will know this to be true, even without being told by one expert or another.

And so I must ask, "When will we find confidence to develop schools that work the way students best learn?"

The small metal box in the photo, in a classic "reliquary" style, likely held small items of great value. I find objects like this to be inspiring. The box is at the Met.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, February 19, 2018

the Met...

Yesterday we went to the Met. Today I am headed home to Arkansas. The image of Joseph the carpenter is from the Cloisters. In the museums I've been looking at things that are so wonderful and that no one of this day could make them without first investing their lives in the development of their hands and minds.

All of the legislators in office since Sandy Hook should be held accountable for failing to protect our students from gun violence. Will you please join the student movement to force legislators to act in behalf of student safety? The American legislators did nothing after children and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook and will likely do nothing now unless it is demanded of them.

While the image is claimed to be that of Joseph, you may notice the background shown in the image is of not of Roman times.

Last night I mentioned my ideal to my daughter, that students in the great universities in the US put students to work in carpentry and stone carving as a means to assist the the forming the students' character, creativity and intelligence. Of course, my daughter is right. Parents would not stand for it. The idea of paying big bucks to engage students working deliberately with their hands would make no sense to those who've based their own terror of the trades.

The funny thing is that industrial arts training in the US was launched in the 1870's because leaders at MIT and Washington University realized that their engineering and math students were lacking a basic foundation for their studies due to their not having done things that are real.

Make, fix, and create...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

sailor's snug harbor

Yesterday my wife and I found our way to Staten Island and visited Snug Harbor, a complex of buildings that had served as a home for retired and disabled seamen and then as a national historic site became the home of a variety of cultural centers. The attraction that led us to Snug Harbor was the Noble Maritime Museum.

A friend had wondered what we would find to do on Staten Island. I'd never been before and that's reason enough to make the free ferry ride.

Ferries are certainly the best way to travel.

Snug Harbor is a fascinating place with a rich history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailors'_Snug_Harbor

On the way across on the ferry, I recognized this small lighthouse, Robbin's Reef Light, the story of which is well told in the Noble Maritime Museum. The museum is the protector and defender of this light, and cherishes and tells the story of Kate Walker, who was keeper of the light for 33 years after her husband's death. When the US Coast Guard, declared Robbin's Light to be surplus property, the Noble Museum stepped up with a plan for its preservation. It will be restored and maintained as it was when Kate Walker was keeper of the light. It is not as small as it appears in the photo, and has five rooms inside.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

a city of stone

New York City is a city made of stone. The photo shown is of the Soldiers and Sailor's Memorial on the Upper West Side. From the image you will not grasp the intricacy of the carved detail, but you can see the scale of the work.

Aside from the great monuments, the same level of intricate craftsmanship was applied to buildings throughout New York City, and so while this is a city of stone, it was a city of craftsmanship at an earlier time.

It makes one wonder. As the acid rain gradually erases the hand carved details, will there be craftsmen trained to build again and restore? Not likely.

Today we went to the Cloisters, and also on a search for a hidden monument called the Seaman-Drake Arch. We found it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaman-Drake_Arch

If we consider the role of craftsmanship in the development of character and intelligence, perhaps we could think of doing better in that direction. What I have in mind is that college students at the great universities in this lovely city, learn the arts of stone carving and woodworking as foundations for  academic explorations.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, February 16, 2018

in New York

Today I am in New York City. Yesterday we flew from Arkansas and then visited my daughter's school, Harvest Collegiate, in Manhattan where she teaches high school chemistry and physics. We also met many of the wonderful young teachers with whom she works.

Harvest Collegiate was set up as a new model for schooling and children come from all five Burroughs to attend. http://harvestcollegiate.org

It is different from the Clear Spring School in that we have a wooded campus, and their's is on the 4th and fifth floors of a building on 14th St. A party store is underneath, and unless you saw so many students coming and going from the site, you might never know a school was there.

Today we will go touring in New York City.

Make, fix and create...