Sunday, July 31, 2005

Philosophical Toys - Exhibition at Apexart, New York, until August 6

[By Writer Sina Najafi] On Wonder and Pain: There are two paths in pedagogy. One is the Path of Pain, and the other the Path of Wonder. Like many people, I have experienced both. ... Viewers will be happy to know this exhibition is concerned with an alternative tradition, the more palatable Path of Wonder. I say tradition because it is neither the twentieth century nor the nineteenth nor even the Age of Enlightenment that recognizes the place of wonder and curiosity in learning, though it is true that eighteenth-century philosophers like Rousseau did much to rethink the idea of pedagogy from ground up. ... The idea of a formal pedagogical system based not on the memorization of facts and information but on the development of the "natural" curiosity inherent in every child emerged out of the eighteenth century. One book above all signaled the sea-change that education was about to undergo—Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Émile, where we find the following summary: "Remember that this is the essential point in my method: Do not teach the child many things, but never let him form inaccurate or confused ideas." ... The Path of Wonder is always in the process of producing new devices. Juxtaposed with artifacts from Fröbel’s original system of kindergarten, the Logic Alphabet devised by Shea Zellweger and the computational origami innovated by Jeannine Mosely both follow Fröbelian principles where the tactile, the visual, and the conceptual are merged into one. Playing with Zellweger’s beautiful devices and with Mosely’s seductive paper confections is an object lesson in the structures of logic and geometry respectively, a pedagogy that happens as much through our fingers and eyes as it does with the mind. Or as Rousseau puts it in Émile, "Our first teachers of philosophy are our feet, our hands, and our eyes." More

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