Category Archives: kids are complete people

Margaret Knight

(Note: Framingham, MA, USA Town Meeting just passed a law that bans plastic bags at checkout that goes into effect in 2018. So I was interested to learn that the inventor of the first machine for automatically cutting, folding & pasting together paper bags lived in Framingham for 24 years and that she was inventing all along since she was 12.)

Margaret Knight

Born: 1838 Died: 1914
Occupation: inventor of the bag-making machine

Anyone who has ever carried a purchase home in a paper sack or a lunch to school in a paper bag is familiar with the handiwork of Margaret Knight. Her invention, the bag-making machine, greatly simplified the production of flat-bottomed paper bags, thus making these bags a common feature of 20th-century life.

Knight was born on February 14, 1838, in York, Maine. Her parents, James and Hannah, were cotton mill workers. When Knight was young she moved with her family to Manchester, New Hampshire. As a girl she was known as a tomboy, preferring to whittle things out of wood rather than play with dolls. Her formal education consisted of a few years of elementary school, and by age 10 she was working with the rest of her family in a mill. At age 12, after witnessing an accident on the work floor, she designed her first invention, a device to keep a shuttle from slipping out of its loom. She left the mill around 1857 and for the next 10 years she traveled about New England, supporting herself by upholstering chairs, repairing homes, and engraving silver.

In 1867 Knight went to work for the Columbia Bag Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company made flat-bottomed brown paper bags, similar to the paper grocery bags of the late 20th century. At the time the bags were cut, folded, and pasted together by hand. Knight became intrigued with the idea of inventing a machine that would perform all three steps mechanically, and for two years she experimented with different bag-making machines. When her supervisor complained that her experiments wasted valuable company time, she got him to leave her alone by suggesting that she might sell him the rights to whatever machine she invented. (In fact, she kept the rights to herself.) Finally, she came up with a workable wooden model, which she sent to a Boston machinist to copy in iron. But while the machinist had the machine, a fellow named Charles F. Annan saw it, copied it, and applied for a patent. Outraged, Knight hired a lawyer and sued Annan for stealing her idea. In 1870, after a lengthy, heated hearing, the U.S. Patent Office examiners found in Knight’s favor.

After receiving her patent, Knight entered into an agreement with the Eastern Paper Bag Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Knight received $2,500 for the right to use her machine, $25,000 in royalties, and 200 shares of company stock, which paid quarterly dividends. She reportedly sold the patent rights at a later date for between $20,000 and $50,000.

Around 1890 Knight moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, where she worked in a shoe factory. Over the next four years she patented several machines for cutting shoe leather. She sold her four patents to a group of Boston investors while retaining a one-fourth interest in each patent; she later sold this interest to the Boston Rubber Company. Around 1900 she became interested in automobiles, and for the rest of her life she designed various automobile parts including valves, rotors, and at least two types of motors. By now Knight, who never married, enjoyed a lifestyle comfortable enough that she could afford to assign most of her automotive patents to her favorite nieces and nephews.

In addition to profiting handsomely from her inventions, Knight achieved a measure of fame in her own lifetime. In 1872 the Women’s Journal, a feminist publication, published an interview with Knight and an accompanying article that praised her for her achievements. Her obituary in the Framingham Evening News called her a “woman Edison.” Altogether she is credited with having been awarded 27 patents, and she invented a number of things that she never bothered to patent. She died on October 12, 1914, in Framingham.

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From: American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries, Revised Edition, American Biographies. p231-232

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Filed under inventions, kids are complete people, places: Framingham, MA, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, underestimating kids

Harkness/Exeter vs Sudbury

I was recently reading about the “Harkness Method” first used at Phillips Exeter Academy in the 1930s.
http://www.exeter.edu/admissions/109_1220.aspx

Seems to basically be the Socratic Method/graduate school seminar style teaching with ideally no more than 12-13 people.
The basic idea makes some sense but lots of complaints too.
Here’s one rant: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/petra-janney/prep-school-talking-trash_b_3203729.html

Pros: able to discuss ideas not just facts, not just teaching to the test, discussion not lecture. (I think a flipped-classroom could do this too. As could a larger lecture using an electronic “Student Response System”.)

Summary of Cons:
– if teacher lets clueless and extroverted people talk too much
– if quiet students don’t speak up but grades depend on it
– if students aren’t prepared
– if students like to learn on their own

So I guess like just about anything, something that seems like it could be very useful if done properly, is still probably bad or at best useless or more-of-the-same to many people depending on their preferred learning style. Oh, and their interest in a topic.  I don’t think it’s going to magically make you interested in history if that’s not your thing.  Ken Burns maybe.  Probably not Harkness.

In other words, I still find that FREEDOM is the way to go. Choose a book or textbook, choose a seminar, choose a youtube video, choose a friend to talk with. And freedom to be a little interested, somewhat or very — without someone full of expectations and looking for teachable moments. And ultimately, the freedom to quit. Where else can you get that at the K-12 level except a Sudbury School or Democratic Free School?

Researchers know now that lots of behavior and goals (and bad habits!) are socially contagious. (See for example the myriad of references in Chapter 8 of “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. So being surrounded by a group of free peers for a few hours each day is likely to be a pretty ideal situation — that’s a Sudbury School.

I also think that there is something difficult to describe about being in situations for 5-6 (or more!) hours a day for 180 days times 14 years of your life where there is someone who is the authority and expert (the teacher) that really warps the mind in ways that are difficult to fully appreciate.  Someone tell me because I don’t know: “Do I know enough yet?” and really “Am I fully a person yet?” So extrinsic.  

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10,000 hours

I’ve written about this before surely, kids are in school for 5 to 5.5 hours each day over 180 days (MA has 900/990 learning time laws for public school) so that is 14 years * ~950 = 13,300 hours(!) for Pre-K through 12th grade.

Right now (still? I think this has been off-and-on for a long time) our 8 year old is OBSESSED with drawing animals, dragons, etc. and crafting “creations” out of popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Oh, and pottery. Luckily since he goes to Sudbury Valley School, so he has all the time he needs.

I really don’t see how he would have time to do all of this very serious thinking and doing if he was having to do and think about what OTHER people wanted him to — both in school and homework time. (In fact, maybe my 13,000 hour estimate is low?)

What a gift to be free for 10,000 hours.

Related:

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule “Johansson argues that deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have super stable structures. For example, in tennis, chess, and classical music, the rules never change, so you can study up to become the best. But in less stable fields, like entrepreneurship and rock and roll, rules can go out the window…”

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Filed under 10 000 hours, freedom, kids -- freedom and responsibility, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, time, woodworking / shop class

Kids are fully human

“[W]hat has struck me the longer I have worked with children is how much they are like adults, how little I need, on some level, the philosophies of Jerome Brunar, Piaget, Lev Vygotzkgy”

“I will share a new song, but so will the children. I will teach table manners, but so will the children. I’ll comfort when child is hurt or when there’s a dispute, but sometimes the children do this with more ease and grace than us adults.”

“In a universal way a toddler will handle a problem often in a way I would admire, laughing with a friend and looking deeply into her friend’s eyes until the friend is laughing. Coming to watch and observe a friend who is crying, to see what is wrong and how to help. Organizing a game which pulls others in and makes one and others happy, interested, engaged, purposeful.”

Well said.

excerpts from a post at: Maria West’s blog
https://livingandlearningtogether.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/sunday-morning-thoughts-the-self-organizing-revolution-threes-and-honeybees/

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Sad college kids

Another sad book that could surely be a long NYer article instead, but still.

At Stanford: “Often brilliant, always accomplished, these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives.”

Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out
Recent studies suggests that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/07/helicopter_parenting_is_increasingly_correlated_with_college_age_depression.html

Seems to me this approach to kids is going about things backwards and also forgetting that kids are fully human people. So I say something more like this…

1. Start with unconditional love.

2. Next add exploration, conversation, art, moving your body. Personal freedom and responsibility. Pursuit of happiness.

3. Then, maybe when you are 14 or 16 or later, add in thinking about adulthood. Maybe this will include college, maybe not. Who cares! Life is both too long and too short to be miserable as a kid.

Sounds kinda like Sudbury Valley School.

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Filed under attachment parenting, college, depression, happiness, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

The future is not worth wasting today

“When each nurturing act is administered with the distant future in mind, what becomes of the present?”

How to raise an adult(-child)
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/books/review/how-to-raise-an-adult-by-julie-lythcott-haims.html

“Haims has identified overparenting as a trap. But once you escape the trap, the goal remains the same: to mold your offspring into thriving adults. Whether a child is learning to ride a bike or doing his own laundry, he is still viewed through the limited binary lens of either triumphant or fumbling adulthood. The looming question is not “Is my child happy?” but “Is my child a future president poised to save the environment, or a future stoner poised to watch his fifth episode of ‘House of Cards’ in a row?””

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10,000 hours at a Sudbury School

There’s a book about how 10,000 hours is a rough estimate of how many hours it takes to get good at something (Outliers). Well how about getting good at being you? What is better than that?

So let’s say you go to a Sudbury School starting at Pre-K through 12th grade. Well, there are no grades at Sudbury Schools — it’s completely age-mixed — but you get the idea… that’s 14 years.

So let’s assume a low-end of say 5 hours a day in school (that’s where the “900 learning hours” at many public schools comes from. 900 = 180 days * 5 hrs)

So that is 14 years * 180 days/yr * 5 hrs/day = 12,600 hours

That’s right, you’ve got an extra 12,600 hours to be yourself as a kid when you go to a Sudbury School. Wow.

2 childhoods for the price of 1? Priceless.

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