Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Yesterday I talked with the director of the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, and was reminded that this will be the 340th birthday of their school in the exact same location. Eliot School started out as an elementary school, then became a school for the manual arts, serving the city of Boston as a model for the introduction of manual arts training to Boston Public Schools. It continues that tradition as a school for the arts (including woodworking) and maintains an outreach program through which 2000 students per year in Boston Public Schools receive experience in the arts (including woodworking.)

I contacted their director, hoping to get an update, and was very pleased to learn that they are going strong. I know that in the big scheme of things, 2000 students per year is only a drop in the bucket, given the vast number of students left creatively disengaged. But good things often start small. Eliot School was there at the beginning of the Manual Arts movement in the US, and if there might be a rebirth of it all, it would be a great place for it to start.

I had visited the Eliot School in July 2012, and you can read more about the school and my visit there using the date links at right, or you can use the search function found at upper left.

One thing of particular interest at the Eliot School is their history in relation to the Sloyd system of woodworking education. The Russian system had been introduced at about the same time, and what was called by some, the Boston Compromise was hoped to bring them into relationship. In that "compromise"  the Eliot School became a model for programs throughout the US, in which Educational Sloyd would be practiced at ages 10-12, and then the Russian system would be used with older children.

The compromise made some sense in relation to the movement from the concrete to the abstract, because older students would be better prepared for abstract learning, that involved working from drawings, and doing sample joints rather that building whole, beautiful and useful things.

A very important pamphlet on all this was published in 1892 called the Eliot School Course of Manual Training, which you can download here.  It includes an explanation of the necessity of manual arts training written by one of the first students at MIT, Robert Hallowell Richards.  Richards was a famous and successful mining engineer and his wife Ellen Swallows Richards was one of the greats involved in the start of the Home Economics movement. They lived just a few houses down from the Eliot School.

I was sad to learn yesterday of the death of a friend in Barrington, Rhode Island, poet CD Wright.
I am reminded of how we are intricately connected to each other. One may craft wood, another raise a voice in song and spirit,  another toil over the language we speak, and there are fine threads that connect us still. If you think you know CD (Carolyn) or would like to think you know Carolyn, please follow this link.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the love of learning likewise.


  1. Doug,
    Sincere condolences on the loss of your friend CD Wright. Both of you bring honor to Arkansas.