Tie And Jeans

Saturdays Are Simple

I never could get the hang of Saturdays.  Wednesday in the summer are no problem. I can do leisure and blank schedules. But Saturdays are always a break that seems to come at the wrong moment, and there’s not enough time to settle my head and heart before the wheel spins up again.

Reading Melanie’s great post yesterday pushed me back into a reflective mode, wondering if I have any good insights about how to build a class or culture that makes Makers.

I may not have great advice but, thanks to Andrew Watt, I have a maxim!

I’ve been fighting a vocab problem with my Makers class. It’s about the differences between “simple” and “easy,” two terms that 8th graders abuse and treat as synonyms.

Simple != easy

Simple speaks to the graph, to the gestalt. Simple, in 8th grade terms, is too accepting to the surface, too willing to abstract. Simple is a judgement based on the size of the napkin. Simple can be misjudged.

Simple should mean “lacks complexity,” but complexity is fractal and readily missed. Things that “should have been simple” are discovered, too late, to hold complicated fractures.

Simple describes the route but not the journey.

Easy != simple

Easy speaks to familiarity and experience. Easy knows the road ahead, has taken the curves and leans into them. Easy still holds surprises, and can still be derailed. Easy can be intruded upon. You can still mess up with easy, through haste or inattention. But those are mistakes, almost always head-slappers that evoke a groaned “oh, I should have …”

(Simple || Easy) != quick

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One thought on “Saturdays Are Simple

  1. What a great looking maxim! :-) It’s really more of an aphorism, though.

    All kidding aside about what a great graphic designer you have, I’m finding there’s some benefit in having some models around that work.

    When I went to see Bill Brown at the Eli Whitney Museum, one of the things that really, really impressed me was the sheer QUANTITY of toys of various sorts that he’d built: various rope and pulley systems, gearing systems, up-and-down wheel-to-back-and-forth motion devices he’d built. Each device had at least three teaching purposes: engineering, physics, cultural. You had to build the device, and troubleshoot it; you could discover a physics principle hidden in each device, and there was a surface cultural reality — models of spinning Sufi dancers, or jumping Maasai tribesmen or workers on their way to the New England mill with its turning waterwheel…

    Each of these toys, or exemplars, represented a potential rediscovery. An old toy could be repurposed to a new cultural exploration, or maybe the pieces realigned to a new physics standard. The engineering could always be re-jiggered, within certain cultural limits.

    And the apprenticeship program… I’m drooling. Eighty-five kids train and teach during 2500 hours of community service to graduate. They learn graphic design, Scratch programming, photoshop, photography, carpentry, CNC operations, first aid. Almost any group of them can run almost any program in their Workshop space. They’re human, and humane, and yet they’re the ‘skilled armorers’ that make the interchangable parts of all those models and quantities of existing toys so useful.

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