Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Exercises in Wood-Working

Joe, from North Carolina sent this link to Exercises in Wood-Working by Ivin Sickels, 1889. It is a comprehensive course in woodworking developed at the City College of New York. The following is from the introduction:
The tendency of modern systems of education is toward a proper distribution of practical with theoretical training. The mind is to be aided in its development by the action of the eye and hand; and, in fact, all the special senses are employed in objective teaching and manual exercises. In school, the eye does more than interpret the printed page: it recognizes the form and color of objects, it must calculate their size, proportion, and distance, by observing and comparing them; the hand is required to do more than writing: it is taught to appreciate the weight, hardness, and other properties of objects, by actual contact with them. At first the introduction of drawing, modeling, and the use of tools, into the courses of study was experimental; but, having passed beyond that stage, these exercises are now known to be efficient aids to a more natural and rapid as well as stronger mental development.

There are some who, after being educated in the abstract way, can apply their training successfully to practical pursuits, who see no necessity for manual or industrial training in the schools, and who claim that superior and sufficient development may be obtained by the study of mercantile methods and the classics. These, however, form a very small percentage of the people, and systems of education must be arranged to stimulate all intellects, and not measured by the accomplishments of a few. Our best educators recognize this fact, and are modifying old systems by the greater introduction of manual elements. No one doubts the value of practical qualities, not only in ordinary people, but also in prominent leaders, who must be thoroughly practical - a fact so aptly illustrated by prosperous manufacturers and merchants, successful engineers, great generals, and eminent statesmen.
This morning, Michael Thain promised to reimburse the 1.2 million dollars used to decorate his office at Merrill Lynch, but made no apologies for the billions in bonuses passed out by his failing company... bonuses paid at taxpayer expense. It is too bad that manual training with the values it imparts in the lives of kids... to be thrifty, industrious, and caring in one's work, to be thoughtful of others, and to have an aesthetic vision in which one takes on the challenge of personal creativity, had so completely disappeared in the 120 year interim between 1889 and 2009. Michael Thain might have received the benefits of its effect, and the decline on Wall Street would not be so severe, nor its effects so deep. We have created a class of ethically impaired managers of American industry and economy who seem to know nothing about either.

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