Wednesday, September 08, 2010

a compelling hypothesis

When at a turning point in my own education a craftsman friend informed me that he believed my brains to be in my hands. Of course that is an odd thing to say to someone. We all know that brains are stuffed in our heads. But is the total of our intelligence there as well? My friend's observation led me to examine the pleasure I found in craftsmanship, reexamine my own goals, and I became a woodworker as a result. What could be simpler than that?

It seems there aren't all that many craftsmen left. We have almost given up on manufacturing. We assign skilled trades a lesser value in our culture than work done requiring a college degree. Many of those with degrees find that there is nothing to do in their field. We made a national decision to outsource manufacturing to become a "service economy" and now have even outsourced accounting and law. The experts proclaimed that we would be an "information economy." In other words, we wouldn't need to make anything, or do anything and the only viable business left would be Google. But then Google would be a whopper, right? And its isn't really about information, but about advertising.

And so, as a member of the lonely band of the few craftsmen left, I have a few things to say. By abandoning the ideals of craftsmanship and hands-on learning, we have put ourselves and our nation in a very tough place.

My simple, compelling hypothesis? By taking more time to be cognizant of our hands, to take greater interest in them, we have the power to bring things to right, to raise standards, to increase dignity, to bring greater intelligence to our schools, our homes, our communities and our lives. Just as I was challenged by my craftsman mentor/friend to examine the intelligence in my own hands, I invite you to do the same for yourself and our nation. The hypothesis is one you can examine for yourself, with or without my help. And let's not forget the pleasure and the joy... there are feelings that arise in the making of real things. I can tell you all about it but it is best that you discover these feelings for yourself.

Today at the Clear Spring School wood shop, the first, second and third grade students will begin making trains.


  1. Doug,

    My career was manufacturing and my great enjoyment comes from making things whether professionally or as my hobby. Love to solve a problem which is what you do when you make something. I do not blame younger folks for following other career paths. They have seen their parents in manufacturing downsized multiple times, study in the sciences or engineering are a grind, financial rewards are much greater in finance or law for those with much lesser talents.

  2. Jay, I don't think those of us who enjoy making have done enough to help others understand what we do, or why. For years I participated in craft shows while watching all my professional craft friends mature in skill, but with few young people stepping in to take our places as we grew older. It is a tough life, when most go shopping based on price rather than based on the building of community.