Thursday, June 30, 2016


Yesterday I returned my review pages of Tiny Boxes to my publisher with my findings marked in red pen. Others at Taunton Press are also going over the text, looking for errors that need to be fixed and made right.

Today I plan to begin writing text for my box guitar book, as I hope to have the first chapters off to the publisher during July and August.

The following is from William Torrey Harris' report on Manual Arts Training:
Boys may love the work of the manual-training school and dislike history, grammar, and mathematics, and all book-learning, in fact; but to be excellent in manual training would not prevent him from being illiterate and a bad neighbor and a bad citizen — even a dynamiter.
His absurd assumption as secretary of Education was that the use of tools was mindless and that the use of tools stifled the imagination and left the bodies of the young deformed. No doubt, he thought he was doing good things, just as the proponents of No-Child Left Behind, the common core,  and the "school choice" movement think they are doing very good things. Harris' report is preserved at the conclusion of Calvin Woodward's rebuttal of it, The Educational Value of Manual Arts Training.

The question must be asked, "why are educational policy makers so out of touch?" The answer is simple. As students progress trhough schooling into "purely intellectual" pursuits, no longer subject to the reality check provided by actual experience, they tend to go out on a limb. As those students progress further, and are given positions of authority, they become a danger to society. But craftsmanship, whether practiced in school or out involves the exercise of values. Manual arts taught in school are ways through which values of creativity and craftsmanship are passed between generations.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The educational value of manual training

 In the late 1800s and early 1900's two St. Louis educators battled head to head. William Torrey Harris was a pompous intellectual who became head of the US Department of Education, and Calvin Woodward was the professor of mathematics at Washington University who became known as one of the two co-fathers of the manual arts training in schools. In an interesting exchange, 1899, William Torrey Harris wrote a report in condemnation of manual arts training, and Calvin Woodward posed his response, both of which are included in: The Educational Value of Manual Training: Consisting of an Examination of the Arguments Presented in the Report of the National Council Committee on Pedagogics, at Nashville, July, 1889

The exchange between these two important figures in American education is vastly illuminating. While Harris would have banished manual arts as useless and insisted that youth of all classes would benefit most from purely intellectual engagement, Woodward wrote:
My conclusion is that knowledge, intelligence, skill, power and culture are always helpful in the acquisition of more knowledge, more intelligence, more skill, more power, and more culture. The more accomplished one is, the easier new things are to him, whether in the realm of pure intellect or in the field where mind and hand are cultivated together.
Evidently Harris, having been raised in a purely intellectual fashion, saw nothing but drudgery and degradation in the craftsman's labor. His idea was that hand-work was an expression of mindlessness. Such stupidity ought to have no place in schooling, but readers should be aware that there are still such idiots in positions of power in American education.

Today I am reading through the loop for my Tiny Boxes book, finding minor things that need to be fixed. Editing is not my strong point, but as it has been pointed out to me, there is no one better suited to seeing what needs to be fixed than the author, even if that ties me to the computer for a few days to come. I hope the book becomes a best seller.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

home again.

I am back in Arkansas and recovering from 9 days of intense woodworking at the Marc Adams School of woodworking. I had 17 students in each in three classes. One student, Mark, aged 82 made it through 9 days of class along with my trusted assistants.

I may in the future, choose to go only for 7 days in a stretch as 9 seems to have left me (and others) worn out.

Today I will be unpacking, putting tools in their proper places and will catch up on my review of "the loop" from my tiny boxes book.

William Torrey Harris was a complex character in American education. On the one hand, he helped Susan Blow to form one of the first public school Kindergartens in the US, and on the other, he led the movement to take American Indian children away from their families to put them in boarding schools.

He was quite literally an enemy of manual arts training and saw little value in it. As head of the US department of Education, he submitted a report highly critical of manual arts training that elicited a response from Calvin Woodward that can be read entirely (both sides) here: The Educational value of Manual Arts Training.  It's worth reading as it helps to illustrate the challenges that will be faced if we are able to proceed in an attempt to restore manual arts education in American Schools. There may still be those who are foolish enough to believe that the hands and brain are distinct organisms that should be taught in isolation from each other.

While William T. Harris was claimed to be a proponent of Froebel's philosophy, you can see how very little he understood of it in this direct quote:
"The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places ... It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world."
Tools are the product of intellect, and the use of tools the means through which intelligence is created. Froebel understood that, but apparently, some others did not.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the means of learning likewise.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Effingham, IL

This morning I am in a roadside hotel in Effingham, Illinois, relaxing just a bit on my way home to Arkansas. The last two days of my 9 days of classes were intense, as the small cabinet would have been best as a three day class. Given that the last two days were added at the culmination of a full week of intense classes, I felt I was not at my best and made some mistakes in set-ups that could have been avoided with a fresher mind.

My students, also were feeling the strain. One of my students, Mark, had been with me for the full 9 days, as had been my assistant Jerry.

I had kind of a fitful night of sleep, as my mind was reviewing and processing an intense week. I also had weird dreams about having a pet white rat that could talk to me and confide its concerns about society and humanity (and the lack of it) in these uncertain times.

In any case, I am on my way home, and am looking forward to being in my own shop, where my set-ups affect only my own work and my own success.

I applaud those whose courage led them to join me at Marc Adams School of Woodworking for any of my three classes, and thank them sincerely for their kindness.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning likewise.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Box making at MASW

We concluded our 5 day class at MASW with a small exhibit of work a shown along with my students who made all these boxes with their own hands, new skills and design inclinations.

Today I start a two day class in which students will make small wall hung cabinets.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn likewise.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ready for day 5

This will be my 5th day of box making class at MASW, and my seventh day of classes. I have been selling copies of my books, and talking some about eduction, how we learn, and why woodworking education should be part of every child's learning, regardless of age. Even adults need hands on learning and would choose it for themselves if given an opportunity.

Marc Adams School of Woodworking is the perfect place for that.

I was too busy during the day to take fresh photos but took a few this morning as I walked through the bench room. My students have each made a variety of interesting boxes.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

day 4 box making at MASW

Today I will be teaching how to make wooden hinges and begin making inlay. We will also continue installing brass hinges in boxes. Jigs are set up for cutting finger joints and miters, and it has become difficult for me to interrupt students to offer demonstrations.

It is wonderful to sit back every now and then to watch my students at work.

Tonight I'll have a brief slide show and guests are welcome.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the love of learning likewise.