Saturday, November 11, 2006

In "The Sloyd System of Wood Working" (1892) by B.B. Hoffman, Superintendent of the Baron De Hirsch Fund Trade Schools in New York City, Hoffman quoted an unidentified writer’s view,

“As the development of the motor centers in the brain hinges, in a great degree upon the movements and exercises of youth, it will be readily understood how important is the nature of the part played by the early exercise of the hand. There can be no doubt that the most active epoch in the development of these motor centers is from the fourth to fifteenth year, after which they become comparatively fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been left altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency thereafter.”

I teach adults during the summer month at various woodworking schools and occasionally for clubs and Woodcraft Stores. The quote above is one that I would find difficult to share. Who wants to really acknowledge the challenge we face in overcoming what have become "fixed and stubborn"? Those of us beyond our youth take solace in the terms "comparatively," and "practically," and struggle on to develop hand skills through which we make the world a better place, and our lives deeper, richer, and more meaningful.

Greater than the difficulty of teaching old hands new tricks, is the challenge of reawakening an old brain to renewed creativity.

Let's change our schools. Let's let the hands learn in their best time for learning. Let's do all that we can to keep the spark of childish, playful creativity alive from cradle to grave.

The photo above is from a Shaker tables class I taught for adults last year at Clear Spring School. The amount of loving attention each table received was enough that each will be treasured for many years to come.

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