"Two Degrees of Separation?" by Jane Lancaster
Editorial by Dave Ferguson
Books for You
Sponsors of the Gilbreth Network
News from the Smithsonian
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Vol. II No. 4 Winter 1998-99
One of my mother's friends also has a Gilbreth connection, as her father was head of a Canadian engineering society where he met both Gilbreths. Once I was interviewing an elderly black woman about something else entirely when she told me she remembered seeing Mrs. Gilbreth striding down the road in Providence, perhaps to collect one of her children from school. The Gilbreths moved away from Providence almost seventy years ago, but whenever I give a talk someone will come up to me afterwards with an anecdote about the family. And it's not even safe to vote. Yesterday, when I was entering the polling station I chatted to a friend about my recent visit to California, where I had talked to Ernestine Gilbreth Carey at some length. Two steps nearer the voting booth a woman came up to me and said 'I couldn't help overhearing you talking to Pam-I'm so excited you're working on the Gilbreths-that was my favorite book." After several minutes I had to tell her that I needed to get home to write some more, or else I might have been there still!
The year 1998 has ended, and what a ride. The Chinese have been credited with a saying, a curse on their enemies: "May you live in interesting times." I had always wondered how the word "interesting" could be considered a curse; that is, until this past year. Now, I suppose, the entire country knows that "interesting" can be a curse.
On the other hand, interesting, does have another, important meaning in the aspect of learning and education. Keeping the students interested or simply choosing interesting subjects makes all the difference in how the child will feel about education and how much he/she will learn. The Gilbreths, whose work together, was contemporary with some of the great builders of modern education like Thorndike or the Montessori School system, were in their own right, pioneers in the art of education.
Two things occurred these past weeks, which drove this home.
Dan Gilbreth had forwarded a request he received for a further reading list of Gilbreth books a la "Cheaper... and Belles" as well as Dr. Gilbreth's apple cake recipe; this from a family in Monterey, California. This family had recently shared the two Carey/Gilbreth books, by reading them aloud, in lieu of watching television. They simply want to know if there were more, similar books. I pointed out some books they might enjoy, but suggested that they could partake in a very popular Gilbreth family activity, which was education, made interesting, by making it a family activity.
Frank and Lillian believed that if the children were going to be the best that they could be, education couldn't stop at the schoolhouse door. But they also recognized that they had to have both interesting subjects and enjoyable ways of learning.
Anyway, I suggested that
this family consider some of the examples in the books
and try to create their own after-school education for
their children. Besides, even though Morse Code is now
considered antiquated by the military, knowing it might
still come in handy someday (in our current genre, if the
Y2K Bug or a giant asteroid wipes out communications,
Morse Code might be a handy thing to know).
Our office fell prey to the national obsession last week and all our desks and files were moved to another location. This constant shifting of office location is designed on the theory that "it's hard to hit a moving target."
Of course, this current move was only temporary, as we would be moving to a different floor in two weeks (if anyone has a son or daughter unsure of a career choice, tell them to get into the field of office furniture moving; they'll never be out of work). Anyway, the point of this was that, for the first time in many years of knowing a particular, fellow employee, I had never sat near her until now. This person is a very educated and experienced professional, whose work I respect. She is also one of the most talented people I've ever known at sucking up to the boss, no matter how idiotic a statement the boss spouts; bat I digress.
As we were both doing some work, after a staff meeting, I had the chance to glance over at her desk and saw her typing on her computer. Here was the talented professional (and part-time obnoxious, teacher's pet), in a contorted posture, bent over the keyboard, typing at a rapid "hunt and peck" pace.
Yes, she was fast; almost as fast as the average, touch system typist, but oh, was she going to pay someday for that poor posture and those herky-jerky motions. Indeed, she was already complaining about an occasional sore neck. I can't imagine why. Everyone bends their neck in the shape of a cane handle.
The point to this long story is this. There are both skills and knowledge we need in this world, in order to function or simply to live life to its fullest. Learning to touch type is one of these skills.
The Gilbreths recognized the vast need for a typing skill in both their sons and daughters. They recognized typing as an important breakthrough in written communications; a skill all of their children should possess.
They set about to develop learning plans, to devise the "one best way" of learning to touch type. They also slanted their lessons to a child's interest. For example, they developed a color-code system, where each finger was assigned a different color and the keys that one particular finger was to strike, were painted the same color. Letting the younger children paint their fingers must have been well received. Therefore, each finger had its own little realm to control.
Another method used was to place a tent over the keyboard, so that the child couldn't see what keys they were striking. tn this way, they would learn relative finger positions and get their feedback from watching the typed letters rather than the keys. This method is a excellent way of not only learning, but of maintaining a good posture; clearly of a greater advantage than that of my hunt and peck friend at work.
The key element to the Gilbreths' approach was rewards. Just as messages had been left in Morse Code, possibly leading to rewards, typists received small rewards for achieving certain goals in their learning. There was also the ultimate reward, for the best typist, of the unique white typewriter. Ernestine Carey still talks of this.
There still exists much debate over rewards attd incentives in both education and in business. Without going into depth, let's just agree that a rewards system has its place in the scheme of motivation and learning.
The important thing is that we afford our children and grandchildren the opportunity to explore the various facets of the world around them. That we turn off the television and the computer for a few hours each week and spend the time with the family, learning a little piece of this very interesting world.
Books for You
My wife sometimes rolls her eyes whets the mail brings a new book or I bring the car to a screeching halt in front of a used bookstore. She asks, where will you put another book? This from a person with a closet and a half full of clothes.
In any event, I'd like to share some new and old book finds with you.
Innovator by Daniel Wren and Ronald
Greenwood-Oxford Univ. Press, Inc.
The Blue Book
For Fair Rates of Pay by James S. Perkins
Ergonomic Design for People at Work Vols. I & II by the Eastman Kodak Corp. Van Nostrand Reinhold 1983
Ergonomics Programs by the National
Institute of Occupational Safely and Health (NIOSH).
Published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Sponsors of the Gilbreth Network
I am happy to report that our fund raising was a total success. We had many generous donations, which will more than adequately take care of our projected expenses for the year. Thanks to all. Here is our updated sponsors list.
One Best Way:
Before leaving the subject
of sponsors, we would like to once again thank Ernestine
Carey, Dan Gilbreth and the rest of the Gilbreth family
for designating The Gilbreth Network as a partner in
sharing royalties in Lillian Gilbreth's book, As I
Work on the captioning and
cataloging of the Gilbreth photograph collection is
progressing. I am in the final stages of putting my own
list of captions together, but we can always use your
help. If you have found and numbered captions for
Gilbreth photographs, or any other pertinent information
now is the time to speak up. This is a significant
project which I'm sure you would want to be part of.
Again, they plan on developing a comprehensive
bibliography of material written by and about the
Gilbreths. Please send your listings of these references