Friday, January 18, 2013

woodworking laboratory...

The following is from The Eliot School Course or Manual Training in Jamaica Plain, Mass. published in July, 1892
"The introduction of some form of tool work in the earliest stages of education is only an extension of the laboratory method of instruction, which has become nearly universal within the last twenty years in the colleges and technical schools.

"Experience has shown that the laboratory training of the higher schools not only gives experimental skill, but cultivates the imagination, strengthens the judgment and forms habits of accurate thinking and it is daily becoming more clear that according as the mind is well or ill trained before it comes to the college work, so is the success or failure of the pupil most probable."
That is a pretty clear statement of the value of woodworking in schools, and by extension,  this statement explains a bit of what is missing in school as a result of the deliberate elimination of woodworking programs. In the late 1800s, educators gradually became aware that children would learn best by doing rather than by sitting passively as the unwitting and benumbed recipients of endless hours of professorial discourse.

Robert H. Richards, Professor of Mining at MIT, confessed in a paper he read at the Conference on Manual Training in Boston, 1892 and included  as a personal commentary in the Eliot School Course:
"Up to twenty-one years of age I was the dunce of every school I attended. But while I was doing nothing with books, my mind was always active. I was actively interested in learning about nature, and boys' out of-door sports." 
He then described how when he had finally arrived at MIT in a class of six other boys, the whole world of learning and its relevance opened up for him. All the world conveyed through the world of books suddenly had meaning and relevance to his life because he had finally been offered practical use for it. He said further:
 "I do not think my experience in extraordinary or unique. I fancy every school has in it just such boys as I was. For them, this new scheme of object-teaching is of the highest importance as it gives them the stepping-stones so much needed. On the other hand, for the bright boys, the new system serves to give them a chance to measure themselves alongside of their neighbors by some other standard than their speed of converting print into thought; and it gives them a chance to see that there are some things in the world to be done that require a little care, a little time, a little thought, and a little patience, all of which are most excellent lessons for the bright swift thinker to learn."
Do you grow weary of me, telling you day in and day out about the hands? You can come anytime, and the message will be somewhat the same. For that reason, I try to bring other voices in that may explain things more colorfully than I, and at one time in American education, the voices had not been mesmerized by statistics and dulled by teach-to-the test routines. Most certainly, the hands and fingers touch every facet of human life, relationship and culture. It is not enough to listen, or simply read. We must act upon what we know for the lessons to become deeply held as our own.

Today, I continued work on my boxes which will be veneered on top. As you can see in the photo, I've installed the keys that reinforce the mitered corners. I also had my apprentice in shop today to help me replenish my inventory of small boxes to sell to small galleries. He was pleased to be learning new things.

My thanks to Abigail for the link to The Eliot School Course or Manual Training.

Make, fix and create...

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