Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Diablo Woodworkers is beginning the publicity for their hgh school woodworking competition. I was asked to write a few words, and what I write is no doubt too much and will be edited to fit:
For many years the value of wood shop was one of the best kept secrets in American education. Students didn't get to take woodworking if they planned to go to college, so it became the place where the academically disinterested may have found a home long enough to graduate. But wood shop teachers have known it to be something more. We've watched our students mature, take an interest and grow in competency, confidence and comprehension. Tragically, administrators, many parents and school boards haven't understood the underlying mission. Woodworking doesn't merely prepare students for technical careers, it offers the foundation for all students to engage in life-long learning.

Some of this has to do with the hands. We all know that we learn best when our hands are engaged. We become more intelligent about the world and its workings when we are directly, physically, manually involved in it. Where schools have students sitting with hands folded on desks, don't look for the same levels of learning to take place.

In the years to come people will reawaken to the significance of individually crafted work. Significance is not just in the objects we make but in what happens to us, and within us. We turn from idle consumers to very powerful creators. Psychologists have called it self-actualization. We each can leave an important legacy in the things we make that tells more clearly than our words alone about our caring for each other and for the planet, and in the meantime, we become more potent, more intelligent, more creative, and more alive when we are engaged in making things from wood.

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