Friday, May 11, 2018


On April 6 1917, the United States entered WWI after a German U Boat had sunk an American ocean liner, the Housatonic. Earlier in that year, Congress passed and president Woodrow Wilson signed into law, the Smith-Hughes Act. The Smith-Hughes Act had been regarded as a victory for the manual arts, as it directed federal funding into vocational education. On the other hand, Smith-Hughes isolated vocational education from the rest of the curriculum and from most school settings. Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton University had said:
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson
He was talking about class and divide and the need to sustain it through a two tier educational system. Haven't we had fun with that?

Charles A. Bennett, the first Columbia University Ph.D. in Manual Arts Education wrote the two volume set of the History of Manual and Industrial Arts which he ended in 1917 due to the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. Bennett noted it to be both a high point, due to the infusion of federal funds, and a low point due to its failure to grasp that training in the manual arts is a thing that all students need, particularly those who will go on to college.

That last sentence will make no sense to most readers. For surely white collar, blue collar and the line between is still a great divide in America, just as Woodrow Wilson had proposed. This is not a new topic in the blog. Read here:  One of the objectives of Educational Sloyd was to help create a sense of the dignity of all labor and to help diminish the divide between the "intellectual" and working classes. If those who were destined to college had received some direct experience in the manual arts they would not look down their noses at those who had worked to develop skill. They would then have some respect for the supporting contributions made by others in their communities. I'm not talking about socialism here. The subject is human decency, respect and the ability to build strong communities.

I have made some new nail assist devices able to hold the smallest brad safely while being nailed without hitting your fingers with the hammer. The last ones I made were small cherry sticks that were likely to be swept up in the sawdust or used by one of my students in a construct of some kind. These new ones look more like tools one might keep and use for years to come. And we don't like hitting our thumbs, do we? This simple device, held on edge is also useful to parent fingers trying to hold nails as a child makes his or her first attempts to drive them into wood. By making it large enough to avoid throwing it in the trash, I've also made it more useful than the previous model.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

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