Saturday, February 05, 2011

carpenter's hands.

Republished from the WOH blog, Sunday, November 11, 2007

One of the major challenges in American schools is that of maintaining a high level of civility. Schools are plagued by rude behavior, classroom disruption, and bullying. Teachers as a result, often leave the profession in as few as three years or less. So imagine, after spending 4 years on your college education, and with the amount of investment and debt that entails, leaving your chosen profession in discouragement. Imagine also, the students (and parents) who were disappointed in their educational aspirations by a faulty learning environment. Imagine the ultimate toll on the American economy of people left in the margins of economic utility and stunted in their creative power.

So what does that have to do with manual arts?

Here in the U.S. our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and in order to assert and protect that guarantee, the Constitution provides for separation of church and state. This means that in our state supported schools, organized worship and prayer, and the promotion of specific religions and specific religious beliefs are prohibited.

Many Christian conservatives in the United States promote the idea that organized prayer in our schools and the promotion of Christian values would lead in a restoration and revitalization of moral values and behavior in schools.

While I would not question the value of meditation or prayer, I suggest that Christ was a carpenter before he became so widely known and promoted as the Christian Savior. There are significant human values expressed in and learned from craftsmanship, and the greatest failure in American schools is not the prohibition of organized prayer, but the disengagement of the hands in the skillful exploration of learning and making.

I would like to share an old saying. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." Can you see a similarity between the word workshop and "worship"? Put the hands back in education, let our schools become workshops with children making things of useful beauty, and you will see other things happening as well. When children have the pride of self and confidence that arises from successful engagement in making beautiful things, civility will arise also. So the answer to improving American education is not to be found in hands folded idly in prayer, but in the carpenter's hands--- training, skill, service and devotion.

The photo above is a new type of door I'm making which is a cross between a board and batten door and a bridle jointed one. It could be called an internal batten door. It is made using standard bridle joint slots and a pieces of connecting wood planed to fit the slots. Only the outside boards will be glued, leaving the others to expand and contract without having effect on the size or shape of the door.

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