Are there special qualities inherent in hand-crafted goods? You see my students' work in the pages of this blog, and can compare what you see with what you get in a happy meal. Robert Keable Row, an associate of John Dewey wrote in The Educational Meaning of Manual Arts and Industries, 1909, "...there is the impulse to, and interest in, personal ownership, which finds it fullest expression in those things we have (personally) produced."
When I mentioned in an earlier post that McDonald's should give tools in place of toys, I was only slightly kidding. Tools empower the imagination. Often toys leave too little to the imagination. Can it be that Chinese toys break because they receive abuse inspired by a quiet disdain from an absence of qualities they fail to represent?
The following is also from Robert Keable Row, 1909:
"The marvelous development of machinery for manufacturing, with all its accompanying advantages has had this disadvantage, that it has deprived the worker of a large part of the personal pride and joy he had in the work of his hands. It is not unreasonable to hope that shorter hours for the factory worker, cheaper and better transportation to suburban homes, training in manual occupations in the schools, growth of the arts and crafts idea, and development of an appreciation of the difference between machine made decoration and the work of the artist-artisan, may restore to civilized man in general, and to the city dweller especially, much of that joy in human production of which machinery has deprived him."Sadly, that hasn't quite happened yet. Kids these days know so little of what they can create. So, was I joking about fast food restaurants putting tools in their happy meals? While I know they won't do it, no, it was no joke.