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News & Views - Oct, 1992 Issue 

To Speak of Carpenters and Gardeners
By Lon Woodbury

In human affairs, two of the most common analogies compare activities with carpenters or with gardeners. These analogies are useful because it simplifies complex activities down to basics that are more easily understood.

The carpenter conceives of the final product in every detail, and then molds the raw material to bring his or her vision into being. Every part is cut or molded into just the right shape, and place where it can best contribute to the final product. The carpenter is a creator, having total control in molding what nature has produced and mankind has processed. The carpenter is the controlling agent, master of every detail of the product and justifiably receives full credit or blame for the end result.

The gardener is very different. The gardener selects the seed, prepares the environment, and nurtures the growing crop. Where the carpenter actively molds and defends against nature and natural deterioration, the gardener prepares the environment, and helps nature take its course. The gardener has a more humble perspective, with nature receiving most of the credit or blame.

In education, the teacher who develops detailed lesson plans well in advance, and strictly follows them, is thinking like a carpenter, as is the teacher who sees his or her primary mission as teaching specific facts and specific skill to the students. On the other hand, the teacher who has a general idea of where the class is heading, but emphasizes taking advantage of ďteaching momentsĒ, and creates lessons out of studentsí interests and questions is thinking like a gardener. The former molds and controls, while the latter nourishes and removes obstacles to growth.

In Special Purpose schools and programs, a carpenter will do a diagnosis to pinpoint the exact problem, and then carry out the cure. On the other hand, the gardener will create a structure that removes negative environmental factors, and then supports the child in finding values and behaviors that lead to success.

Both the gardener and the carpenter are concerned with results, but the process is radically different. Both types of thinking are necessary in Special Purpose schools, depending on the circumstances. But, if the child is psychologically intact, Iím inclined toward the gardenerís type of thinking. You see, while the gardenerís method is to nourish living things and help each achieve its full potential, the carpenter must first kill the tree.

Copyright © 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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