Monday, November 12, 2012

the need to make, and the need to express craftsmanship...

I have been reading the article about Marcin Jakubowski's Factor e farm in Bloomberg Business week which I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, but also remembering my summer visit with Bill Coperthwaite. Both Coperthwaite and Jakubowski are driven by a goal of regaining a necessary democratic distribution of human resources. Both are concerned with the tools of civilization. If you were to view Bill at an earlier time when his imagination had been captured by the huge power supply potential of the Mill Pond tidal basin, it might have appeared that he and Jakubowski were speaking the same language. But that was before Coperthwaite discovered the powers of his own hands, body and mind. While Jakubowski is concerned with tractors, Bill is working on the crooked knife, democratic axe, and wheel barrows. You can learn more about Coperthwaite, by typing his name in the search blog at top left.

Human beings these days seem to have become unfamiliar with the rhythmic potentials of our own bodies. Give a kid a chisel, and he wants to drive it straight into the wood, not realizing that work is most easily accomplished through rhythmic (and thoughtful) application of force. By dividing work into smaller increments, human beings can have tremendous power. The illustration above is from Rudolfs J. Drillis "Folk Norms and Biomechanics" and shows the optimum work tempo for man. Don't expect others these days to make such observations or to make such observations of our bodies. We have reached the point of foolishness in which human labor and the productive capacities of our own bodies is a thing to be escaped rather than studied and cherished.

A poem from Two Hundred Poems for Teachers of Industrial Arts Education Compiled by William L. Hunter, 1933 tells a bit of the story

The Potter
The potter stood at his daily work,
One patient foot on the ground;
The other with never slackening speed
Turning his swift wheel around.

Silent we stood beside him there,
Watching the restless knee,
'Til my friend said low, in pitying voice,
"How tired his foot must be!"

The potter never paused in his work,
Shaping the wondrous thing;
'Twas only a common flower pot,
But perfect in fashioning.

Slowly he raised this patient eyes,
With homely truth inspired;
"No, Marm, it isn't the foot that works,
The one that stands gets tired!"
-- Author unknown
 Blog reader Reuben sent in this link, Why teachers should put students to work.
Today in the CSS wood shop, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students enjoyed a "free" day or "creative" day in which they got to do pretty much what they wanted. It is the day in the wood shop that they love most. The high school students worked on their cigar box guitars.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Hmmm. when I type and search for Copersthwaite in the blog search field, this post is the only one that comes up?

    I read the lengthy article about the Factor e farm yeaterday. And I believe a common challenge in such projects is to get everybody to participate. Maybe out civilization has lost the drive, when it comes to serivng the community without a very easurable gain for the individual.
    But all in all a very intersting article.

  2. Sorry, Jonas, I misspelled Coperthwaite's name and fixed it. Try again.

    Interesting, that while the Factor e Farm is making all kinds of interesting tools, the problem they are having with clean water is epidemic in the developing world. There are simple solutions to that.

  3. OK I'll try to search for it again. I guess that I too would have misspelled his name.

    By what I got out of the article, it seems to me the problem is lack of leadership.
    I am afraid that it is too common a problem with a lot of those communal lifestyle experiments.
    I especially frowned upon the part about greek exchange students that were allowed to sit and watch cartoon network all day long instead of working.
    But then again. It is a well recognised problem that when you are dealing with volunteers of any sort, it very often ends with a few working, and a lot just idling.

    So when no one acts and tell other people what to do, then things like the drinking water and sewage issues become massive health threatening problems.

    It is sad, but I have gradually come to believe that those projects work best, if people have to pay to be part of them. If it is free, then there is no risk in joining. If you are told to leave the society because of lack of interest - work or whatever reason. Well, then you just leave. You haven't put anything on stake.
    A bit like Monty Python's logic conclusion: You come with nothing, you are going back with nothing - what have you lost? Nothing.

    But if you pay to be part of an experiment like that, then you want to be sure that the people whom you are letting in on the project are as devoted to it as yourself. Because othervise you are paying for them to be an extra burden for the society.

    I would be happy to be proven wrong.

    By the way, it is interesting stuff.