Friday, August 05, 2011

the value of manual training

This is from Dr. Calvin Woodward, 1883:
"My own conclusion, based upon the observation of the influence of manual education for at least eight years, is that not only does our workshop not detract from the interest boys take in books, but it stimulates and increases it, directly or indirectly. In mathematics, physics, mechanics, and chemistry, the help is direct and positive. Note for instance, the mental arithmetic involved in the execution of a pattern from a working drawing. No one can learn from a book the true force of technical terms or definitions nor the properties of materials. The obscurities of the textbooks (often doubly obscure from the lack of proper training on the part of the author) vanish before the steady gaze of a boy whose hands and eyes have assisted in the building of mental images."
As one might guess, Dr. Woodward's ideas about manual training were challenged by others more conservative in their educational approach. As described by Charles A. Bennett, "Every address he made was watched by the opposition for unsound theories and overstatements of facts. Those who were open-minded and accepted his invitation to visit the school and see for themselves, were pleased with what they saw, while others picked at his every phrase that did not accord with their own theory or practice." One nit-picker claimed "whatever energy or strength was absorbed in manual training exercises with tools was just so much energy withdrawn from mental training." Another claimed, "There is no information stored up in the plow, hoe handle, steam engine, but there is information stored up in books." To which I would respond, that there is real information stored in every aspect of physical and cultural reality, if our hands and eyes are properly and scientifically attuned toward discovery and exploration. If the purpose of education is to create mindless drones, we've created the perfect system for it.

And so, at some point one can expect opposition to the idea of the Wisdom of the Hands to arise from ignorance and inexperience which grows in direct proportion to our neglect of our hands and our failure to accept lessons from our own personal experience as valid. The counterbalance to reshape human intelligence is at the ends of our arms as hands and fingers are set free to engage in direct learning. Watch, touch and learn.

Today I am gathering my thoughts, box examples, and tools for my trip to Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:31 AM

    To pretend that only the mind matters seems so foolish.