I was curious during the last week as I observed the kitchen countertop installers and appliance installer at work. They came without the needed tools to do their jobs. The appliance installer needed shims to raise the dishwasher to its necessary height to align with the cabinets. One team of countertop installers came with a saber saw, but I had to stop that as he was cutting the hole for the sink in the wrong place. The other team of countertop installers came without a scroll saw and had to borrow mine. And so what can one say about professionals who cannot do the jobs at hand? Had I not had shim stock, and had the installer not known my interest in craftsmanship, the dishwasher would have been installed too low to fit with the surrounding cabinets. "That's as good as I can do, he would have said." Had I not had a scroll saw, the installation of the countertop would have been done with a tiny vibrating saw that filled the house with smoke. And again, I'm not finding fault with the installers, but with their situations and the educational system which separates and sorts without unearthing real value. The following is from Felix Adler, 1892 writing on the influence of manual arts training:
I …wish to speak of the value of manual training to the future lawyer and clergyman, and to all those who will perhaps never be called upon to labor with their hands. Precisely because they will not labor with their hands is manual training so important for them--in the interest of an all-round culture-in order that they may not be entirely crippled on one side of their nature. The Greek legend says that the giant Antaeus was invincible so long as his feet were planted on the solid earth. We need to have a care that our civilization shall remain planted on the solid earth. There is danger lest it may be developed too much into the air-that we may become too much separated from those primal sources of strength from which mankind has always drawn its vitality. The English nobility have deliberately adopted hunting as their favorite pastime. They follow as a matter of physical exercise, in order to keep up their physical strength, a pursuit, which the savage man followed from necessity. The introduction of athletics in colleges is a move in the same direction. But it is not sufficient to maintain our physical strength, our brute strength, the strength of limb and muscle. We must also preserve that spiritualized strength which we call skill –– the tool-using faculty, the power of impressing on matter the stamp of mind. And the more machinery takes the place of human labor, the more necessary will it be to resort to manual training as a means of keeping up skill, precisely as we have resorted to athletics as a means of keeping up strength.Quality school is proposed as a corrective to the lack of interest in craftsmanship, but also that the whole of human culture may be energized and restored to health.
There is one word more I have to say in closing. Twenty-five years ago, as the recent memories of Gettysburg recall to us, we fought to keep this people a united nation. Then was State arrayed against State. Today class is beginning to be arrayed against class. The danger is not yet imminent, but it is sufficiently great to give us thought. The chief source of the danger, I think, lies in this, that the two classes of society have become so widely separated by difference of interests and pursuits that they no longer fully understand one another, and misunderstanding is the fruitful source of hatred and dissension. This must not continue. The manual laborer must have time and opportunity for intellectual improvement. The intellectual classes, on the other hand, must learn manual labor; and this they can best do in early youth, in the school, before the differentiation of pursuits has yet begun. Our common schools are rightly so named. The justification of their support by the State is not, I think, as is sometimes argued, that the State should give a sufficient education to each voter to enable him at least to read the ballot which he deposits. This is but a poor equipment for citizenship at best. The justification for the existence of our common schools lies rather in the bond of common feeling which they create between the different classes of society. And it is this bond of common feeling woven in childhood that has kept and must keep us a united people. Let manual training, therefore be introduced into the common schools; let the son of the rich man learn, side by side with the son of the poor man, to labor with his hands; let him thus practically learn to respect labor; let him learn to understand what the dignity of manual labor really means, and the two classes of society, united at the root, will never thereafter entirely grow asunder.
Make, fix, create, and insist that others learn likewise.