The idea of the Reagan years was that money in the hands of the rich would trickle down to the poor and lift all boats as that money put people to work, and yet those rich, having little sense of social responsibility to the poor and working class, have not been engaged creatively in the economy to the degree of actually making jobs. The problem lies at least in part in our educational system in which education of the hands and education of the head alone have been isolated from each other and creative hand-work afforded less dignity. The situation allows for a huge number of students to pass through the system without ever understanding the intrinsic value of the goods and services provided for them. The system creates in those students a sense of entitlement and superiority.
In contrast, the idea presented by Educational Sloyd and many others in the early manual arts movement, was that through all students to being engaged in making useful and beautiful things, all would gain a greater sense of their intrinsic value and concurrently develop an appreciation of those who had crafted them. This is not quite the same idea as going to Tiffany's and buying expensive stuff that only a very few Americans can afford.
We have arrived at a time in American culture that was predicted by Mr. Charles B. Gilbert, Superintendent of the Newark, New Jersey Public Schools when he spoke about the danger of sacrificing our democracy on the division between academic work and skilled hand work in the 1905 meeting of the Eastern Manual Training Association:
The great function of all public schools, afterall, is not to give specific knowledge or fit for specific things, but to train democratic citizens. The attitude of the teacher toward manual training has very much to do with the democracy of the teacher. Any sort of separation of children into classes intended to go for all time through their lives is exactly antagonistic to democracy--could not be more directly antagonistic; it is the antipode of democracy... What is the great foe of democracy at all times? It is the building up of walls--permanent walls--between classes; is it not? So long as wealth disappears with a single generation or two generations there is not any great danger; but when we get into the position--condition (If we ever do)--that many of the countries of the world are in; if a child is born with the feeling that he is born in a class--that there is a great gulf or a high wall between him and his neighbor who is born in a different class; then democracy is dead.Unfortunately American schooling does little to create a sense of the dignity of craftsmanship. But there are answers to be found within. Craftsmanship is the foundation of human culture and of democracy. One cannot be a creative and successful craftsman without being intellectually engaged. One cannot be a craftsman without being true to particular values that uplift the community in which craftsmanship is nurtured and takes place. Unlike American politicians who spew small lies and exaggerations right and left with every breath, a craftsman must be true to his materials, his design and to himself.
It is truly time to take matters into our own hands.
Make, fix and create...