Monday, December 31, 2012

A call for Philosophy in public schools

Michael Shammas: For a Better Society, Teach Philosophy in High Schools
Michael Shammas' call for philosophy as a requirement in lower education is his argument on why he believes philosophy is necessary for a healthy society and a strong republic; "because the capacity to debate requires the capacity to think." He extols philosophy for encouraging students to "entertain a thought without accepting it" and be open to the "possibility that one is wrong."
He wonders why philosophy is not already standard curriculum, supposing that "perhaps the subject seems too esoteric or pretentious" or that "[it] could encroach on the sort of questions religion purports to answer." I think Shammas is missing two key elements of educational history. The first of these is the Educational Progressive movement, which by the 20th century had already branded rote memorization and repetition as ineffective and potentially damaging to students. Great thinkers like John Locke and John Dewey (among many others) claimed that children learned best by observation and personal experience, a pedagogical theory I absolutely agree with. The problem came about when the Progressives finally had the opportunity to explore their theories, once enacted the grand ideas of experiential learning quickly degraded into repetitive worksheets describing situations and asking how students would react to them. The great thinkers of the movement couldn't imbue all the teachers with the ability or resources to truly teach by doing, and they fell back into old habits with repeatable results. Most teachers cannot or will not teach a subject which has no right answers, and requires students to be comfortable with that.
The second piece of history Shammas leaves out is the No Child Left Behind act, which standardized curriculum and (more importantly) testing throughout the country. The reason philosophy can't be taught is the same reason he believes it will help people learn: there are no right answers. A federal standardized testing authority cannot judge whether a student has made a moral, empirically supported argument or a sloppy claim to genius; they have neither the funding nor the objective viewpoint to accomplish this.
This all leaves out the fact that if a student does not want to learn something, they won't. Attempting to introduce students who may already have dismissed education as impractical to their lives to Nietzsche and Kant is unlikely to derail their plans away from school.
None of this means that the subject is unworthy of public education, or that it's simply impossible to implement, but many other pieces need to fall into place before such a proposal could be appreciated.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bicycle Trailer

I love to cycle, and i should ride to school more often, especially since its only a few miles away and parking fees are outrageous. The problem has been that as a sculpture student I'm required to bring tools with me to class, and if I want to do homework I have to bring the tools back, the weight of the tools has prohibited me from cycling with them. But that's no longer acceptable, I've committed to riding as much as possible. 
My solution to the cargo problem: trailer.  Sure, there are plenty of trailers available for purchase, but they can be expensive and kind of dorky. Why buy what you can build? This just a simple wheeled platform fitted to carry my largest toolbox and maybe a little extra.
I started with a piece of electrical conduit, which I bent into a rectangle with rounded ends.

I did this with a simple conduit bender, available at most hardware stores. After the bending I just trimmed the extra piece and welded the ends together.

The frame fits the toolbox just right, so next I bent each end upward to make a cradle.

I did this with the conduit bender again, but since the sides are all connected I had to do each side incrementally, bending one side slightly end then the other slightly more. Once that was done I cut 1/4" bar into sections and welded then across the two sides. I will use bungee cords to secure the box while traveling.

The platform is now done and ready for wheels and a hitch.

Pulley Penicillin

To finish the pulley the last thing it needed was a hub suitable for the 3/4" axle, thankfully I found inexpensive 3/4" collars at Ace Hardware. After centering the collar to the balance point I found previously, all it needed was to be welded.

Not my best weld ever, but it's strong, on center, balanced, and these welds are on the backside so not visible. Overall win.

More work on the motorized bicycle coming soon.

New motorcycle project

This is an early 1980s Suzuki GS850 I was able to pick up for a song. It had a blown head gasket, broken clutch cable, and broken exhaust bolt. But it runs and has a lovely power band, and good sound from the 4 into 1 exhaust (and I believe that's a Kerker muffler), even the tires are in good shape. Shown here with clubman bars already installed and its new fiberglass seat resting peacefully.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pulley Fever II

Previously on Conjectural Technologies...
I cut a single two-groove pulley in half, making two pulleys.
And now the continuation...
Because this was a harmonic balancer the hub was pressed in with a rubber ring between it and the pulley, knocking it out with a sledge was easy.

Then I traced the core's outside diameter onto steel.

Which I cut out and welded into the pulley.

Now to find the center of my new pulley, I clamped a nail in the vise (checking that it was 90° straight up), and placed the pulley over it, adjusting it by hand at first and then tapping it with a small piece of steel bar until it balanced on the nail.

I eyeballed the pulley as being level, as close as I could get it, then hit it with a hammer so the nail underneath would leave a mark, like a center punch.

This is definitely a primitive way to do this, using appropriate tools it could be achieved with less work and greater accuracy, but I'm working with what I've got.
Next up use to put a 3/4" hub in the center for the axle.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

self portrait

Self portrait in charcoal, with one of my handmade ceramic skulls.

Blastolene Lakester

There's some real cool stuff happening over in Randy Grubb's Blastolene workshop, check it out!

Pulley fever

I need a large pulley for the transmission on the motorized bike, but they're hard to find, and why buy what you could build?
I took the crank pulley from one of my spare Nissan Z-car motors.

But it's very heavy cast steel and has two grooves when I only need one. So I used a DeWalt angle grinder with a cut-off wheel slipped into the small gap between the pulleys to separate them.

It took a while, and because the cut was so deep and narrow the wheel had almost no room to move or tweak.

Now I have two pulley rings, next I have to make one of them mate to the axle of the bike.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ear armour

Cast bronze ear armour, rests in stretched earlobes and covers the helix.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bronze mask in progress

Cast bronze mask, and upper face. Will have brass scale armour lower, and leather lining

Friday, November 2, 2012

Outstanding use of 3D printer

This is a perfect demonstration of what the new generation of printers can achieve.  Just imagine taking one of these machines to a third world country and printing off tools, bicycles, furniture, almost anything needed. As prices come down and the limits are refined, tested, and expanded 3-dimensional printers are going to change the way the world does business, decentralizing the manufacturing industry and shifting towards a data economy rather than a commodities economy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tomorrows education, today

Jeff Selingo, an editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education recently wrote an article called "College Majors of the Future." In the article he talks about how for non-technical fields majors are not very important, he says "I have found, by talking to employers and educators, that what they want most in their workers is the ability to learn how to learn." He goes on to recommend that students focus more on finding a faculty member they can connect with, undertake a research project, study in foreign countries, and seek out exotic experiences; contending that practices like these lead to more well-rounded and capable workers.

Something Selingo mentions, but does not pay enough attention to, is childhood. He opens the article with "Kids get asked the question from elementary school to high school: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If they followed through on their answers into adulthood, we would have a complete surfeit of teachers, firefighters, football players, dancers, doctors, and nurses." So while children are questioned about their future careers at an early age, it's only at adulthood that they should start preparing for those careers?

Imagine a world where elementary school students have meaningful relationships with their teachers, are regularly exposed to new ideas and places, junior-high students start to take responsibility for their own learning by researching topics of interest to them, and high school students have the opportunity to see new lands and meet new people as a regular part of their education. How would the world be different with such students entering college or the workforce?

 The highly cited "Future Work Skills of 2020" study says that the next generation of workers will NEED sense-making skills, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency and transdisciplinarity in order to compete in the (increasingly) global job market. Those types of skills are literally what can be developed with Selingo's approach summarized above.

 Why skip over the powerful formative years of students and encourage only those who survived the standardized testing to become capable workers? Children and students everywhere need this kind of education NOW.

  College Majors of the Future
  Future Work Skills: 2020

Monday, October 8, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

The bullgod

Bronze Bullgod, ready for final finishing.

Religious Iconography

Seeking religious iconography, symbols which can be quickly recognized as relating to a particular deity or belief.