Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dana Jones in her comment on the last post quoted the following by Peter Dormer from the American Craft Council website:

"The separation of craft from art and design is one of the phenomena of late-twentieth-century Western culture. The consequences of this split have been quite startling. It has led to the separation of 'having ideas' from 'making objects.' It has also led to the idea that there exists some sort of mental attribute known as 'creativity' that precedes or can be divorced from a knowledge of how to make things. This has led to art without craft."

The denigration of the hand leading to the separation of craft from art and design actually started long before and is not just a late 20th century phenomena. In the days of ancient Greece, and as prescribed by Socrates, citizens and their wives were to take no part in hand-crafts or craftsmanship as these were to be done by slaves and were considered demeaning and morally degrading to the upper class.

Early educators like Commenius, and Pestalozzi began to notice the integral relationship between the hands and intellectual development, thereby creating modern pedagogy. Froebel, Cygnaeus, and Salomon, then Dewey and Howard Gardner sustained this conviction against rampant forces of blind intellectual elitism.

But the hands are essentially irrepressible. Like living in the shadow of the mountain that makes its own weather, we live unconscious of their profound effect. We may live in pretense of intellectual superiority. Or we can stop pretending. You can hang a diploma on the wall and look at it each day. I don't intend to make light of the sacrifices made to attain such recognition. But, when the toilet stops up, when your car won't start, when you want to make something beautiful for your home or when you want to drink deeply and fully at the fountain of human culture, sorry, but the diploma is not quite enough.

I was at the Albany, NY airport at 9 AM for my flight home from Woodworker's Showcase and saw a string of carts loaded over the top with bags of trash, each pushed by a worker dwarfed by the contents. "How can there be so much trash so early in the morning?" I asked. "We do this about every two hours," one replied. I told her I was grateful she was there and how beautiful the airport was because of her work. "No one ever tells us that," she said.

Otto Salomon described one of the purposes of educational sloyd as being to instill a deep respect for the dignity of labor in all students regardless of social class. The work of the hands is about caring, the application of attention toward making the world a better place. It is about time we noticed and acknowledged all those who do so. We maintain a course of cultural and intellectual stupidity so long as we neglect the education of our hands.

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