Saturday, November 21, 2015

manual training and the poor...

The following is from Felix Adler, a small portion of an address to the National Conference of Charities and Correction at Buffalo, July 1888.
"By manual training we cultivate the intellect in close connection with action. Manual training consists of a series of actions which are controlled by the mind, and which react on it. Let the task assigned be, for instance, the making of a wooden box. The first point to be gained is to attract the attention of the pupil to the task. A wooden box is interesting to a child, hence this first point will be gained. Lethargy is overcome, attention is aroused. Next, it is important to keep the attention fixed on the task: thus only can tenacity of purpose be cultivated. Manual training enables us to keep the attention of the child fixed upon the object of study, because the latter is concrete. Furthermore, the variety of occupations which enter into the making of the box constantly refreshes this interest after it has once been started. The wood must be sawed to line. The boards must be carefully planed and smoothed. The joints must be accurately worked out and fitted. The lid must be attached with hinges. The box must be painted or varnished. Here is a sequence of means leading to an end, a series of operations all pointing to a final object to be gained, to be created. Again, each of these means becomes in turn and for the time being a secondary end; and the pupil thus learns, in an elementary way, the lesson of subordinating minor ends to a major end. And, when finally the task is done, when the box stands before the boy's eyes a complete whole, a serviceable thing, sightly to the eyes, well adapted to its uses, with what a glow of triumph does he contemplate his work! The pleasure of achievement now comes in to crown his labor; and this sense of achievement, in connection with the work done, leaves in his mind a pleasant after-taste, which will stimulate him to similar work in the future. The child that has once acquired, in connection with the making of a box, the habits just described, has begun to master the secret of a strong will, and will be able to apply the same habits in other directions and on other occasions."
The point that Adler was attempting to make was that part of the problem for the poor and for the juvenile delinquent was insufficient development of will. But then the development of will might offer challenges to the powers that be in that strength of mind would lead to demand for change. Here in the US, it seems policy makers would rather incarcerate young men than train them to do useful things. That may sound like a harsh thing to say, but it is true, as evidenced by the elimination of manual arts training in schools throughout the US.

Today I hope to gain some quality time in the wood shop, and plan to renew a proposal for an article about my simple router table. The table itself was featured in "Methods of Work" in Fine Woodworking years ago, but the addition of various fences and a new, simple means of providing zero clearance to the bit makes it worth another look.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to learn likewise.

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