Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ethical culture society

Ethical Culture Society, 5th Ave. NYC
Yesterday my wife and daughter and I attended the #notmypresident day rally at Columbus Circle in New York City. We joined with thousands of others challenging the legitimacy of the 45 president. On the way, we walked past the Ethical Culture Society building on 5th Avenue.

Some of my readers may recognize the name Felix Adler, founder of the Ethical Culture Society and the Working Man's School. Adler was a proponent of manual arts training for all children. He was also instrumental in bringing Kindergarten to New York City.

If you use the search block at upper left and type in "Adler" you will find earlier posts complete with quotes from Adler's book The Moral Instruction of Children. He recognized the importance of manual arts training, even for those children who planned to attend college, as the hands were applicable to learning in every subject. The use of the hands in service of others is the foundation for moral behavior. Have you heard of the word "craftsmanship" and wondered what it entails? If you've missed the point that it involves values, character and morality, please allow me to invite you to deeper reflection on the subject at hand. If we want students to be good and smart, or smart and good, there can be no better means than by the reintroduction of wood shops to our nation's schools.

In conventional schooling, children are instructed to believe this or that and are tested on it. In the schools we need to support Democracy, children will test and challenge themselves by DOING meaningful things for family and community. Some of that should include making beautiful and useful things from wood.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.


  1. Anonymous7:15 AM

    Dear Doug,
    Most of the time I read (in my mind) your "hands on approach" as a statement for tactile arts in general.

    Now I read that you write "(...) there can be no better means than by the reintroduction of wood shops to our nation's schools".
    Is this just a short version of your hands on approach? Or do you want to mark out a special point in doing woodwork (amongst other crafts)?

    Or, asking the other way around:
    Schools may install pottery classes, (fine) metalwork or wool and needle - to offer the children a place to create something - don't you think?

    As far as I know, your sector is woodworking. That said, you see all the benefits and difficulties in this field. But I can imagine, that others (teacher, craftspersons) would stand up for their discipline, too.
    Or - requestioning - is there something particular special about woodshop and woodworking?


  2. René, there are some specific values related to woodworking. The material has grain, which demands examination of the material in order to gain success. Then there is the important connection woodworking offers to exploration of the real world of nature, as wood comes from trees. Another important point is the use of measure and the acquiring of concepts like square. While making things in pottery class may be wonderful, and potters may argue that it too, should be included and I'd not disagree, there are specific values related to working with wood, and I think I'm right that it should be included in all schools.

    One important point is that schools should draw upon all the craftsmen and craftswomen available within the community, utilizing their enthusiasm to excite creativity.

    But yes, I do think that woodworking has a special role to play.

  3. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Thank you for your statement!
    You scratch another aspect I keep track of: to invite craftspeople to show up at school.

    Most school I know of (I am just a former pupil with own kids and friends that are parents and so on) try to use the creative potential of their regular teachers - trying to get them and their wisdom of hands into additional class hours: as part of the regular schedule or as an course/offer after school. But, well, most of the teacher are at the limit with their energy, the lessons are not so very inspiring - if they took place at all.
    Another strategy is, to pay experts/craftspeople for such lessons.
    A third way is, to choose or form the teacher with this in mind: Being pedagogical and creative in any craft.

    There is a lot to say about all these approaches, I know.

    All I hope - with every of this different ways of handling the situation - is, to find teachers that are able to show the students how to connect their creativity, their craft with the "real world" (social, economics, math, food, ...).
    And here, I totally agree with you: The trees and their wood are a very good starting point, cause it is nearly everywhere at hand and so many processes in nature can be shown with them; and processes in daily labor and leisure world, too.