One of the reasons Otto Salomon believed that the sloyd knife was to be a fundamental tool, forming the foundation for the start of a child's learning was that the knife allowed an exploration of form that was difficult to accomplish with chisels and planes and saws that were intended to cut straight lines. Salomon was very fond of quoting the Norwegian Christian Jacobsen from his book I slöidsagen. Et indlaeg (Oslo ,1892) (not an exact translation)
"When using the knife the child is learning to use the muscles of the hand and the forearm with elastic capacity (proficiency?). The child learns to plan in advance the form he is going to bring about. The knife demands total attention and permits no mechanical work. Furthermore the knife can produce – unlike the plane as an example – curved surfaces in form work. This makes the knife superior when it comes to development of sense of form and beauty."There are some things that we can do to make certain that beauty remains an important part of our lives... teaching all children to be engaged in the search for it can be a start. And if we don't do this one simple thing, we'll become a nation in which power companies put powerlines whereever they want for their own greatest profit regardless of who pays and how. The theft of beauty is a difficult thing to measure and thus beauty is clearly at risk.
Did you know that Americans pay nearly 100 billion dollars a year beautifying their own local out-of-doors experiences? This does not include the value of the time spent luxuriating in gardening or the joy of their visitation. And so it can be assumed that folks do find beauty to be meaningful or they would not spend their hard earned money and time so frivolously. We do take pride in how our homes look, how our yards look, and to ascertain that no high voltage lines run directly through our communities. We pay a great deal of money to live in neighborhoods where we are saved from all that. Beauty does not fit conveniently on an engineer's spreadsheet. Children need to become comfortable managing beauty in their own lives, protecting it and even creating it on their own.
Fortunately for some in my generation, the spirit of Educational Sloyd was still at work when we were kids. Unless we get kids making beautiful and useful things, we can expect matters to become much worse.
Quickly, on another subject, I found a humming bird had flown into the wood shop and could not find its way out. So I turned off the florescent lights and walked over to the closed window where he was trying to get out... I grabbed him in my right hand and carried him to safety out of doors. It is always a thing of beauty and of mystery to interact so closely with such wild things. I've had hummingbirds in my hands before, and 30 years ago held one in each hand that had flown into my wood shop and had become too confused to find their way out.
Make, fix and create...