Thursday, January 26, 2012

In defense of knitting when times are tough, part three

Rudolf  Steiner was a very brilliant man, and if interested you could research to see the width and depth of his involvement in thought and culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. What he is most known for is his establishment of the Waldorf Schools. And what makes him so very very brilliant is that his curriculum teaches every 6-yr old to knit . . . because he thought it the perfect human activity!
He knew that knitting put us into the right brain where we would be more receptive to new ideas (and what educator doesn't want that?). But he also knew that knitting developed
  • hand-eye coordination
  • spatial relations
  • the math skills of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.
We probably know about the hand-eye coordination. And we may even know that we are developing spatial relations (as we hold that sock up to see if it will fit). But many of us knitters--women of a particular demograpic--are resistant to the third because we are a little math phobic. Yes, knitting is math--from simple addition and subtraction through multiplication and (if you write your own patterns or adapt existing ones) blazing right on through what we might call "higher" math skills (the stuff we loved to hate in high school).

But here's the deal: if you don't use a part of your brain, it atrophies. Okay, we know that. Some of us might have let our math-brains run a little low . . . and  are not even sure why we ought to care? But here's why we ought to care.There were some scholarly nuns in Pennsylvania who lived a very long time with no evidence of Alzheimers. Because they were scholars, they dedicated their brains to science so we could learn from them. And the results were astonishing! There did have Alzheimers--in pretty much the same proportion of the rest of the population: it just did not manifest!

Because they studied all sorts of things--and kept all parts of their brains alive and firing--when one part of the brain was affected, another healthy, well-developed part of the brain took over the work of the affected part. They did have Alzheimers, just no evidence of it!

If we put Steiner together with the research on nun's brains, it suggests we should knit more, and stuff that is even more challenging than when life is easy! Isn't it obvious that tough times warrant healthy, fully-functioning brains to deal with all that life presents?

1 comment:

  1. You are so right about Steiner! My daughter (now in 7th grade) attends a Waldorf School (in fact the one profiled in October by the New York Times), and it's remarkable to witness the growth the children have as they go through the "handwork" curricular--especially the sock knitting they do in 5th grade.