Saturday, October 19, 2013

morbid thinkers and miserable workers...

From Educational Woodworking for Home and School, by Joseph C. Park, 1909
"We are always in these days endeavoring to separate intellect and manual labor; we want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers. -- John Ruskin"
Following the rise of manual arts training, it underwent years of decline to reach this day. The attitude of the society described by Ruskin crept into schools. Manual arts classes became the dumping ground for kids who were not planning to go to college, whereas they should have been the fertile ground for intellectual development and moral engagement for all kids. Manual arts teachers found their place in rescuing potential drop outs, while the true purpose of manual arts training was brushed aside for the sake of expedience and economy. Why train students in the finer things if they were to become tradesmen? Why train college bound students in the practical arts if they were destined to greater things? And so the public schools became a place in which the absurd standards of an unjust society as described by Ruskin were coldly and purposefully thrust into future generations.

At this point, I just want to remind readers that manual arts training, whether at home or in school, has a noble purpose that schools and our society have forgotten.
"The most colossal improvement which recent years have seen in secondary education lies in the introduction of manual training schools; not because they will give us a people more handy and practical for domestic life and better skilled in trades, but because they will give us citizens with an entirely different intellectual fiber.

"Laboratory work and shop work engender a habit of observation. They confer precision; because, if you are doing a thing, you must do it definitely right or definitely wrong. They give honesty; for, when you express yourself by making things, and not by using words, it becomes impossible to dissimulate your vagueness or ignorance by ambiguity. They beget a habit of self-reliance, they keep the interest and attention always cheerfully engaged, and reduce the teacher's disciplinary functions to a minimum" -- William James
Make, fix and create...

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