Tuesday, November 26, 2013

R. Charles. Bates, 1901...

R. Charles Bates, in 1901 was asked to share some observations from the 5 years in which he had been director of the New York State Reformatory at Elmira.
"Manual training is not only of value as an educational factor leading to self-activity and mental development, but it becomes in the hands of the scientist, one conversant with pedagogy, psychology, and applied mechanics, a potent factor for moral ends. It opens up avenues for activities which are in direct consonance with the laws governing moral expressions. All morality is but a harmonious adjustment of one's higher self, or nature, with known elements in human character, which elements are the vital forces in society that lift it above license, above conspiracy, above abuse. It is that force in human affairs which removes the disposition to riotousness, to self-abasement, and puts one in an atmosphere of conscious relation to divine law. It is clear to my mind that the presence of manual training in our public-school system will have a far-reaching influence upon human activities because it gives the delightful balance in mental growth which indicates the wisely educated person. For defectives in public institutions it is possible through manual training to awaken dormant consciousness of creative force, and further, it brings into use the neglected motor areas of the brain through the enforced functioning of their corresponding muscular agents. I cannot close this paper without reference to that pertinent remark of Ruskin made long before the science of teaching was as well understood as at present. It is as follows: 'A boy cannot learn to make a straight shaving or drive a fine curve without learning a multitude of other matters which the life of man could not teach him.'"
Mr. Bates seems to have quoted Ruskin in a way I don't recognize, but he got the rest of it right. When we deprive children and adults of their creative power, leave their hands untrained in moral expression, we get the society we would not like. Putting skill in the hands of kids can be effectively used as a measure for awawakening moral force. That moral force can be simply described as "craftsmanship."

TV actor and dirty jobs activist Mike Row is attempting to renew an interest in skill. The idea among some is to get away from it. Let the machines do it all. And of course a designer of 3D printers and a programmer who can create designs may have skill, that can be applied through technology so that no one else will ever need it. But is that the way we build a successful and meaningful society? If craftsmanship is the most direct means of building moral fiber, is a world of 3D printing what we want, or can craftsmanship using simple tools, saws, hammers and the like, and real materials like wood, do a better job of preparing children for the challenges of moral engagement in a real world? Just asking. It would be a dumb-assed question for those who only see the new, and do not see any values in the past or in human culture before the invention of the 3D printer.

My daughter Lucy successfully defended her thesis yesterday and will be awarded her Masters degree in environmental science at the University of Wisconsin.

In the news this morning in Madison is that they've proven the existence of the Emerald Ash Borer in city trees. This beetle threatens over 21,700 ash trees in the city of Madison, nearly 25% of its street trees. Healthy trees will be treated with insecticide and unhealthy trees will be removed. It is a sad day for lovely trees and the citizens who love them.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to Lucy! You must be very proud of her.