What I Learned in the Charleston Jail – Energy Bulletin

Posted by Henry Taksier, June 12, 2010
By Ken White

US public education has been retreating into an ever-narrower curriculum for several decades, and the early casualties have been programs that involve kinesthetic experiences and the manipulation of materials: arts, physical education, music, and particularly crafts like woodworking, nutrition and food preparation, drafting, sewing, and metalworking.

Not that many of these terminated programs were all that terrific, mind you. There was often a tendency to drain the arts of emotional content; turn music into memorization; and compartmentalize crafts as “vocational education,” where skills were taught in isolation, devoid of intellectual content and context. When John Dewey called for “learning by doing,” he probably had in mind something more imaginative than seventh graders churning out cookie cutter bookshelves without ever thinking about why we read books, or how trees grow, or our relationship to the natural world.

But now we’re abandoning even that, and further segregating the experiential from the math, science, and (maybe) English and history that have become the obsessive focus of too much of the public education system. What we’re losing, argues Matthew B. Crawford (of Shop Class as Soulcraft fame), is manual competence, as a result of “severing…the cognitive aspects of manual work from its physical execution.”
In other words, we’re raising an entire generation who haven’t learned (in public school at least) how things work…and how to work with things. (We’ve also not been very good about teaching how to work with others, or even not to see others as things…but that’s a rant for another day.)
So it was a pleasure to meet faculty and students at the American College of the Building Arts at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

Read the rest at What I Learned in the Charleston Jail – Energy Bulletin