Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I have been reading about Woodbine Agricultural School, inspired by a blog reader who had sent me a couple articles about it. Woodbine was established in the Cape May, NJ area, with capital from the Baron De Hirsch Fund which helped to provide relief and educational opportunities for Jews escaping pogroms in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some readers will remember that one of the important American Sloyd texts was written by B.B. Hoffman, Superintendent of the Baron De Hirsch trade schools in NYC. The Baron De Hirsch fund thus played an important part in the history of manual arts training in the US, while specifically attempting to save lives of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe. You can find a photo gallery of the Woodbine School Here. And you can read about Woodbine in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. The photo above is the Baron De Hirsch Agricultural School at Woodbine.

Woodbine was not only a school, but an intentional utopian community, much like many others formed during an era in which arts and crafts and agriculture were understood to have transformational attributes, effecting the character and intelligence of each individual while creating community.

As mentioned in the Time Magazine article, Learning that Works,
"The public school system also has a civic purpose," says Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian at New York University, citing a common academic argument against vocational education. "You're not just preparing people to work. You're preparing people to be citizens. In a democracy, you need citizens who can think critically." But people with jobs, especially skilled jobs, tend to be better citizens than those without them. And the teamwork involved in the training programs at East Valley and on the Navajo reservation tends to help create a sense of community. "In my home high school, you're sitting in a room with 30 other students who don't care, trying to pay attention to a teacher who doesn't care," says Aaron Pietryga, who is training to become a firefighter. "But [East Valley] is like my family. Most of the kids at my home school don't have any idea what I'm doing in the afternoon, and when I explain it to them, they say, 'Wow, you're doing all that cool stuff, and you're going to college. Why didn't I know about that?'"
We may be at that point at which the tide is beginning to turn and we all come to a greater realization that our hands are our best instruments for learning, and for engaging our passions in the pursuit of a better world. It's about time. Today in the CSS wood shop, 7th 8th and 9th grade students will be working to finish various projects before the end of the school year. I have lots of work to do setting up our new SawStop saws before the start of ESSA classes. Today some of the students helped.

Make, fix and create...

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