Sunday, November 15, 2015

an experiment

Yesterday I began making sides for boxes to go with top panels I had veneered as demonstrations in a box making class this summer. I decided to finish the insides of these boxes before the parts are cut by brushing on a water based polyurethane while still in board form. I have a friend in South Florida who uses a spray lacquer finish on the inside of boxes before the parts are cut but I have been wanting to test and use finishes that are less harmful to the environment.

In any case, the experiment seems to be a success, and the walnut finished to a rich brown color in two coats. The finish was easy to apply, and brushed on smoothly after a light sanding between coats. The great thing was that there was almost no odor during application, and there will be no odor on the inside of the box. Now I can begin cutting the parts to size, mitering the corners and making the cuts for the top panel and bottom to fit.

The exterior of the box will be finished after assembly following my usual techniques.

The following is from Felix Adler:
...there are influences in manual training...which are favorable to a virtuous disposition. Squareness in things is not without relation to squareness in action and in thinking. A child that has learned to be exact––that is, truthful––in his work will be predisposed to be scrupulous and truthful in his speech, in his thought, in his acts.

I need not speak of the value of manual training to the artisan class... I need not speak of the value of manual training to the future surgeon, dentist, scientist, and to ll those who require deftness of hand in the pursuit of their vocations. But I do wish to speak of the value of manual training to the future lawyer and clergyman, and to all those who will perhaps never be called upon to labor with their hands. Precisely because they will not labor with their hands is manual training so important for them––in the interest of an all-round culture––in order that they not be entirely crippled on one side of their nature.
All around the world, we have whole cultures that have been crippled on their creative side. Take the great city of Paris for example. There you will find both the crowning achievements of human culture and the arts, and huge areas of poverty, that have become the breeding grounds of terroristic behavior.

Perhaps we should recommence a world-wide experiment before it's too late.
Let manual training... be introduced into the common schools; let the son of he rich man learn, side by side with the son of the poor man, to labor with his hands; let him thus practically learn to respect labor; let him learn to understand what the dignity of manual labor really means, and the two classes of society, united at the root, will never thereafter entirely grow asunder. – Felix Adler, 1888
Last night I watched the Democratic presidential debate, and one of the issues was whether or not public college should be made free. My own preference would be that ALL students be trained in the skilled use of their hands and that technical training be made free. For many students college is not the best course. As pointed out by the moderator in the debate, only about 65 percent of students attending public colleges graduate, and the question must be asked whether the states and federal government should be required to pay for such waste.  Graduating from college might be more assured if education at the lower levels were made more effective by being hands-on. Here in Arkansas, the latest round of PARCC testing revealed that 65 percent of graduates require remediation in college, meaning that those students will have to pay additional fees and waste time learning what they should have learned in high school. Could that be related in some way to the low rate of graduation from public colleges? Perhaps too many students weren't fully prepared in the first place. And if both colleges and lower level education were to pay attention to the theory of Educational Sloyd, concrete testing of abstract ideas would come into play, early and throughout and thereby maintain the interest and engagement of each student. One of the problems inherent in the modern university is that only a few particularly advanced students are selected for concrete engagement in laboratories and research, when all students need to be similarly engaged in real work.

In the meantime, this week's Dunesbury cartoon in the Sunday paper raises the question, "If enough people believe something, does that make it true." As more and more people get their ideas online rather than from real life, and as long as colleges and universities remain mired in lecture based abstraction, we can count on such stupidity continuing to rise at an alarming rate.

Make, fix, create and demand that others learn likewise.

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