Wednesday, June 09, 2010

drawer fronts and return to "classical education?"

Today, I am fitting the drawer fronts for my small walnuts chests of drawers. The photo above shows the process of cutting small mortises on the inside edges of the drawer fronts for the tenoned sides to fit. I've set the height of the router bit to correspond with the depth of the tenon and positioned the fence and stop blocks to control the position of the cut. Normally, I would rout the mortises first and then the tenons to allow for any variance in the width of the cutter. In this case, however, I already had routed mortises in an earlier operation to allow me to double check the fit.

Reader, Mario, sent this link to an editorial in the New York Times, A Classical Education, Back to the Future, by Stanley Fish, bemoaning the loss of classical, read and rote education in our nation's schools, in which he concluded, "Worked for me."

No doubt, you will find thousands of people in our nation whose success allows them to say the same thing. You will find millions more who were not captured by educational enthusiasm for any half-dozen of a thousand reasons. Fish's editorial offered review of three current books on education, all written by those whose success in their fields indicates that yes, for some, the education that we've had has for them worked and for some continues to work. And yet, the statistics of our failings are stupendous.

Here in Arkansas, a state which ranks 49th out of 50 states in the proportion of residents 25 years or older having college degrees, the graduation rate from state universities is 38% in 6 years. That means that 62% don't make it with that time frame and that despite the millions of dollars invested in college education, the story is far, far from success. You can read about it here.

Read Fish's essay and let me know what you think. Mario had noticed a couple things missing, music and the hands. If you want educational enthusiasm for all, for learning to capture the hearts as well as minds of children, you start with the hands, then keep them engaged creatively and expressively throughout the process of education.

As you can see in the photos above and below, the next step in making the drawer fronts is to rout the groove for the bottom to fit. I have made the drawer fronts slightly deeper than the drawer sides so I can fine tune the exact spacing and fit after the drawers are assembled. Stops on the router table provide stopping and starting points for travel, keeping the grooves between the mortises. After all the milling is done to the drawer fronts and the test fitting and fine tuning is complete, I cut them at the angle of the chest sides. A pencil line inscribed on the back of the drawer fronts indicates where to cut.


  1. A rep from a visiting trade school (Triangle Tech) in Pittsburgh recently told me that 27% of the students there already have a 4 year degree.The degree that they have will not get them a job so they turn to a trade school.(not a bad thing!) 27%...........Is it like that in your state? I have a feeling its like that everywhere.

  2. I haven't heard any statistics, but I wouldn't be too surprised. Lots of kids try college, then find out that they have to get good jobs so they can pay off their debts.

  3. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Working in a trade after getting a degree in Philosophy or English sounds much more rewarding than working at the burger place.


  4. Mario, I guess it depends on which burger place. Today, three banks from Eureka Springs will be competing in burger flipping in front of the library and the fourth will be serving watermelon.

    Flipping burgers can be a really fun thing to do, and backyard grilling is a major American fun-to-do hands-on activity. So, why can't we design fast food places that would be so much fun?

    Burger flipping has become perceived as a dead end thing, for dead heads, rather than an occupation of service and joy. We have become so fixated on cheap, that we have lost the commonly held sense of joy in service. But, I guarantee that the burger flippers in front of the library today will gain a great deal of satisfaction, and feel pride for what they have offered to the community...

    And that said, can it really be true as some would suspect, that all the professional burger flipping in the world is a joyless or prideless task? Maybe thankless, and anonymous, but it should not be so.

    And so, why don't we have fast food restaurants where the cooking is showcased, front and center instead of shoved at the back? The burger flippers would gain celebrity status, and upstage the corporate execs... A dangerous situation, I guess, but it would be a lot more fun.