Friday, September 12, 2008

I leave in one week for Finland (Sept. 21) where I'll make a presentation at the Crafticulation conference at the University of Helsinki. The title of my presentation is based on the quote from Abraham Mazlow "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail, and will be illustrated by the making and use of tools at in the wood shop at Clear Spring School.

You may wonder what Crafticulation means. It is actually a made up word, combining the words "craft" and "articulation". If you've ever studied Swedish, you would know that many of their words are composed from two or more words, leaving you head scratching and combing your Svenske to English dictionary in more than one place. Finland actually has two official languages, Swedish and Finnish, leaving some talking with each other in English.

Articulation means the action of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type, and the idea of crafticulation is similar to an American crafts concept shared by participants in the American Crafts movement who use the word narrative to explain that crafts are actually a means through which to tell a story. The words text and texture are both derived from the Latin word textus referring to woven fabric. Ironically, crafts are often more honest and direct as a tool for communication than words, which are used to distort and befuddle. You can lie like a rug, but make a rug carelessly and everyone knows.

Fortunately the conference will be in English rather than either of the official languages of Finland. And of even greater importance, most of my presentation will be in the form of photos of children at work... A language than anyone in their right hand and mind would understand.

So why the heck would an American woodworker go to Finland? First, because they were willing to invite me, and secondly because a friend donated frequent flier miles to cover my ticket. But why else would I go besides looking for beautiful woodworking? There are two answers, both somewhat strange to most Americans. The first is that Finland is the home of Sloyd, a system of woodworking education first invented by Uno Cygnaeus in the middle of the 19th Century. The other reason is that Finland is the world's leader in PISA testing which compares educational effectiveness at the 15 year old level throughout the world. With Finland leading by a huge margin, the US, the world's wealthiest and most powerful country ranks 25th.

You could ask what the Finns are doing right, or what are we doing wrong, and probably come up with the same answer. But these are things I plan to explore while in Finland and are things I will share with you as I am engaged in sharing with them, how we utilize Uno Cygnaeus legacy in the wood shop at Clear Spring School.

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