Monday, September 28, 2020

Irregular blocks

Our lower elementary school teacher Rigdon asked me if I could make some irregularly shaped blocks for his students to explore. I struggled in my mind how to make enough of them without spending long hours at a sanding machine. The solution came to me, as many thoughts do, in the quiet laying awake time at 3AM. 

I remembered a cedar log that I had in the woods, and that by simply splitting it, irregular staves could be quickly produced. Then only minutes at the band saw would turn each irregular stave into short irregular blocks. While these are not exactly what Rigdon had showed me in the first place, he assured me that these are even better. And as one student suggested, "they smell good!" too.

I suggested that they be used the same way that Froebel used his blocks, suggesting that the students create forms of beauty, forms of knowledge, and forms of life to represent the important things in their lives.

The blocks are a hit. You can make them yourself with a short piece of cedar log, a splitting maul and a band saw.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

tool box kits..

I have finished making tool box kits for our Clear Spring School elementary school students, and will offer lessons for their assembly under the guidance of their core classroom teachers. Today I also made 24 sanding blocks for use by our students, and these sanding blocks will go into the students' tool boxes for use on other projects, along with the student's own hammers. I believe that every child should have their own tools. The kits will be delivered on Monday to the core teachers for use later in the week.

The writings of Adolf Diesterweg were the source for Otto Salomon's principles of Educational Sloyd as you will discover in the following passage. 
Teach naturally! Organize instruction according to the natural developmental stages of the children. Start teaching from the pupil's point of view and direct his progress steadily, firmly and thoroughly. Do not teach anything for which the pupil is not yet ready and do not teach anything with which he is already familiar. Teach in a lively manner. Proceed from the familiar to the unusual, from the simple to the complex, from the easy to the difficult, from the known to the unknown. Do not teach in an academic way (in other words, the lecture-type teaching methods used in higher educational institutions), but simply! Always remember that you are aiming at the abstract (increasing the intellectual capacity) and the material (provision of the curriculum) at the same time.—Adolph Diesterweg 
Diesterweg also advised the educator, "Learn to do by doing." That is good advice for anyone wanting to start woodworking with kids. You will notice that children and adults follow the same sequence in learning. And yet schools are too often designed while ignoring student needs.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

designing education with a better outcome in mind

A friend began the arduous process of examining the Arkansas Democratic and Republican platforms for education and found them to be rather meaningless documents, suggesting things like, "We want a world-class education for all our children, regardless of zip code." So what is a world-class education? And which world are they thinking of? Is world-class to be measured by the standardized PISA testing? Lots of work to do there with the US ranking down in the middle of the pack and well behind other developed nations.

Yes, I know party platforms are generally meaningless documents, but it is particularly disturbing to me, that the education upon which our future depends is so poorly adressed. The differences between the parties fall more closely along the lines of certain issues without either considering the needs of our kids except in very vague terms. 

Republicans in general favor charter schools as a way of disrupting public education, and Democrats in general would prefer that public schools be strengthened rather than having their funding siphoned away by for profit charter schools. Republicans in general want everything privatized while Democrats in general favor strong public institutions. We don't learn those particular things from the party platforms but from their performance.

So I've been attempting to address the current problems with education at large.

The apparent purpose of education is to get children out from underfoot and safely corralled so their mothers can work two or three jobs at poverty wages to keep children clothed and fed. The professed purpose is always "to lift every child." But if that were the case, schools would be vastly different from what they are today. The real reforms needed are a very long ways off from current thinking by either party. The dividing line between the parties falls on how enthusiastically they embrace the charter school and privatization of movement as it competes with public education. My daughter got her masters degree in education by a rigorous program in "classroom management," a thing made necessary by schooling that ignores how and why we learn. I say "we" learn because all, whether children or adults, learn for the same reasons and in the same manner. If we think about and recognize how we learn, we know better how to set up situations in which our children learn. As I learned from a student years ago, we all love learning, but have less positive feelings about "being taught."

But how do we reshape a party platform? There is a vast amount of information that links poor educational outcomes (measured by numbers of students failing to graduate from high school or college) to poverty. The more time a child spends in poverty, the less likely he or she will find success in schooling (or should I say, "in being schooled." What we fail to recognize is what Friedrich Froebel pointed out about 180 years ago... Children begin learning from day one, and their mothers and fathers are in fact, their first teachers. Parents in poverty do not have the time or energy to fulfill this vital function. As children enter day care, mothers and fathers in poverty are too busy and stressed out to provide needed and traditional learning support. Then as children reach school age, the parent of the affluent child is able to provide a vast array of enriching experiences that also build support for in-school learning, thus again placing the children of the poor at a disadvantage. We then expect teachers and schools in poor communities to repair the failings of society to provide equitable conditions for student growth.

So, the idea or ideal of having schools that lift each and every child to an equal level of opportunity can only come through serious efforts to reduce poverty and raise a better understanding of the parents' role as teachers. Neither party has a good track record. For example, while Hillary was writing "it takes a village", her hubby was busy sending fathers to prison, and mothers off welfare to work while Republicans are attempting to raise standards by standardized testing schemes and privatization at public expense. I don't think that we could get either party to agree to what needs to be a complete revolution in education. Classroom learning is outmoded and has been outmoded and inefficient since the 1800's. So the platform can only take small steps.
  1. Support high levels of teacher training and teacher autonomy. 
  2. Elevate teacher pay and status within their communities. 
  3. Reduce class sizes (in half). 
  4. Support a corp of teacher aids, enabling a reduction of class size, by utilizing paid teachers in training drawn from university education students.
  5. Arrange for students at all levels to do real things in support of family, community and culture.... Dewey's learn by doing real things.
  6. Shatter the alliance between standardized testing and individual schools and school districts, allowing educational outcomes to be diverse. 
  7. Arrange for manual arts training for all students beginning in elementary school, focused on the integration of hand, eye and mind, allowing thereby to engage students in building an aptitude for scientific exploration, thereby building a respect for all labor and the contributions of others, and also providing a variety of pathways toward student success.

Paralleling this effort. 

  1.  Reduce poverty. 
  2.  Provide for extended maternity and medical leave. 
  3. Raise wage rates for the bottom tier. 
  4. Support programs though local community libraries for mother and early childcare training. 
  5.  Encourage lifelong learning through community colleges and online learning opportunities. 

Think this is an expensive proposal? Not doing these things will be worse.

Make, fix and create... We all learn best lifewise.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The school of tomorrow, today

Readers of Popular Woodworking Magazine will find an excerpt from my new book The Guide to Woodworking With Kids in the November issue that should be arriving in their homes any day now. Note the title of the article, please.

The following is from John Dewey's book, The Schools of Tomorrow, 1915.

"... In schools where the children are getting their knowledge by doing things, it is presented to them through all their senses and carried over into acts; it needs no feat of memory to retain what they find out; the muscles, sight, hearing, touch, and their own reasoning processes all combine to make the result part of the working equipment of the child. Success gives a glow of positive achievement; artificial inducements to work are no longer necessary, and the child learns to work from love of the work itself, not for a reward or because he is afraid of a punishment. Activity calls for the positive virtues—energy, initiative, and originality—qualities that are worth more to the world than even the most perfect faithfulness in carrying out orders. The pupil sees the value of his work and so sees his own progress, which spurs him on to further results. In consequence his mistakes do not assume undue importance or discourage him. He can actively use them as helps in doing better next time. Since the children are no longer working for rewards, the temptation to cheat is reduced to the minimum. There is no motive for doing dishonest acts, since the result shows whether the child has done the work, the only end recognized. The moral value of working for the sake of what is being done is certainly higher than that of working for rewards; and while it is possible that a really bad character will not be reformed by being placed in a situation where there is nothing to be gained excepting through an independent and energetic habit of work, the weak character will be strengthened and the strong one will not form any of those small bad habits that seem so unimportant at first and that are so serious in their cumulative effect."

Why do educational policy makers insist on ignoring that which we all know to be true? Is the purpose of schooling to lift each child, or to subdue them, or to only lift those who are properly subdued? Bob Dylan had written about being "bent out of shape by society's pliers." Was he thinking of school when he wrote that line?

Make, fix and create....

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Making a tool box


This short video shows the assembly of a simple tool box. I have other videos on my youtube channel.

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning lifewise.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

child-centered pedagogy

This morning as I was investigating the concept of cultural recapitulation, I read an interesting paper, "The Savage Origins of Child-Centered Pedagogy, 1871–1913," The author suggests that because a number of the proponents of progressive education were racists, therefore progressive education should be best understood as racist in its origins. This would require us to assume the worst of many of the founders of the progressive education movement. 

To focus on the needs and interests of the individual child is the origin of progressive education. And so I'm reminded of the greater minds and hearts, Pestalozzi, and Froebel.

Proposing my own extremely unfair generalization, there are two models of education. One applies a gentle touch and the other the firm hand of authoritarianism. One trusts the student to grow from his or her own natural inclination to grow and learn. The other insists that learning has to be imposed by the "wiser" outside authorities, political and cultural. One trusts the child, the other does not.

Psychologist G. Stanley Hall was one of the racists identified in the paper identified as a proponent of progressive education. He was also one of the founders of modern psychology, so do we then assume that modern psychology is also racist? G. Stanley Hall was also one of the authorities promoting standardized testing upon which much of modern schoolings is based. Should we also assume that standardized testing is inherently racist? There's a great deal of evidence that it is. 

When I was in elementary school we lived for a year in North Little Rock, Arkansas and for fun we would walk to a local quarry and look under rocks to find snakes. There were a lot of them. The bigger the rock, the bigger the snake. But they were not under every rock. And it seems like these days as we attempt to redeem the soul of our nation, there are lots of racists crawling around and there's a need to examine our own hearts.

I was interviewed yesterday by our local paper because of a letter I had written about Confederate flags decorating the graves of former Confederate soldiers buried in our local cemetery. I noted that many of the young men who fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side were conscripts, forced to fight for a cause in which they did not believe, the preservation of slavery and white supremacy. The vote to succeed from the Union was narrow and did not take into consideration the slaves who were not allowed to vote. 

Now, a group of folks is allowed to come each year to "honor" the Confederate dead by placing flags on their graves. But how many of those who were conscripted to fight in the "lost cause of the Confederacy" would feel honored, or if they were alive in modern times feel either embarrassed or ashamed? And how many of their descendants would prefer they be honored for their participation in the "lost cause" rather than for the many other accomplishments of their own lives? Does their conscription to serve a lost cause have to be continued even to this day?

Today I'm working on a video of assembling a simple tool box for kids. So I've got my camera set up in my finish room and I'm taking short videos that will be assembled with minimal editing into a video that will then go directly to youtube for distribution to my students. You will also find it on my youtube channel.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Cultural recapitulation

There was a proposal at one time shared widely in education, that children should be encouraged to grow through all the earlier stages of human development as a means of fully grasping technology, and as a means of understanding human culture and each other. 

The idea called "cultural recapitulation" was that the development of the individual would best parallel the development of human culture. With that proposal having been ignored in most schooling for the last century you can look around and discover for yourself that many folks are "out of touch." We relate to the smooth flat surfaces of our phones and devices, without going deeper into a full relationship with life.

And we think of technology as being high tech, and not the simple stuff that enabled the survival of man and the rise of civilization.

Primitive Technology is a wonderful youtube channel of interest to both children and adults that allows viewers to watch as things are made using very basic tools closely approximating how they were made by early man.

And so how does this fit into education today? In Educational Sloyd teachers were to start with the interests of the child, then learning would progress from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract, just as we all learn best in real life. Although Primitive Technology is online, it provides a basis for children to re-examine our world and how our human culture evolved.

From the wide array of offerings on the Primitive Technology channel, one could ask students to choose the most commonplace of things. How about string? How can I make it and from what? Then launch into the process of discovery. Unlike most schooling it will provide an adventure.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, September 17, 2020


One thing I've noticed living in a small town is that I'll be driving down the street and have someone that I know flash through my thoughts, only to see them in the next block. This happens again and again, and I've talked with others who experience the same thing. It's enough to convince me that we are connected with each other in unseen ways.

Throughout her life, my mother would remind us that "coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." I, on the other hand, do not regard coincidence as being the work of "God," but as evidence of the interconnectedness of all things. 

It is worth paying attention to the coincidences that pop up, as they tell us we are not alone and that we are part of a network of higher consciousness if we pay attention to such things. Interconnectedness is not designed to tell us to turn left or right at the next light, as an organized religion might do. Instead, it assures us simply that we are connected with each other within a profound mystery. And knowing that we are a part of something so much larger than ourselves should give us pause to reflect and perhaps even reshape the ways we act in the world.

The mysteries of science and religion are the same mystery, but with diverging answers, as one may attempt to manipulate others toward accepting its view, and the other attempts to see reality and grow our shared understanding of it. Skepticism is the best friend of science and the enemy of religion.

Physicists these days will tell us (and it's been proven by experiment) that you can introduce two particles to each other then cast them in opposite directions to the farthest corners of the universe, and what you do to one will affect the other. And so, we are connected with each other in ways that are unseen, and that explain coincidence without requiring us to use the word God. In other words, even science, which is sometimes seen as being at odds with religion, is not at odds with the forces of the universe. In fact, science is in close alignment with reality, whereas human belief, generated through means other than by the observation of what is, is often not.

That's one reason why it is of vital concern that children in schools be constantly engaged in doing and exploring real things. Settings artificiality constructed to "educate" children are not efficient or effective in building the lives of future citizens. Children had best be brought into connection with nature, with their own natures, and with the communities in which they live, building from the central core of purpose toward an understanding of place within the vast scheme of things. That's part of why Kindergarten is so important and why we should be looking at Kindergarten as the best model for all educational endeavors. Michael Resnick's book Lifelong Kindergarten, Cultivation Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers and Play is a worthwhile read on the subject, particularly the forward written by Sir Ken Robinson.

In the spirit of play, I have made small low-tech devices for the laptop computers at school that serve as document cameras to display hand written text on paper. These are inspired by 3D printed document viewers I saw on twitter, but made the old fashioned way with real wood, cherry.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

inlaid boxes and the message behind them

I began making small inlaid boxes in December of 1977 and managed to sell just a few to friends during the Christmas season. There was a not so secret message in them. I hoped that by sharing an understanding of the diverse species of American hardwood from which I made the inlay, an appreciation of our diverse hardwood forests would be established. I figured at the time, that me standing on a pedestal and shouting loudly about the ways we were neglecting to protect our forests would quickly fall on deaf ears. So my strategy was simple. Make inlaid boxes using diverse species of Arkansas hardwoods, and write the names of the hardwoods used on the bottom of each box.

It was a good strategy, as it provided income between furniture commissions, and it got the word out in an understated and non-confrontational manner.

I do wonder, however, whether I've been strong enough in my advocacy for our nation's forests. In about 1990 I created a display of Arkansas hardwoods in our state capital building, in the hopes of compelling legislators to take stronger action to protect our forests, and to create a better understanding of their value. Of course, the forests are valuable to the lumber business and the harvesting of biofuels, but they are also of vast importance to wildlife and to our own sense of self. No doubt, the legislators walked down the hall where my display was set up, and were thinking and talking about other things.

In the mid 1970's as the Vietnam war had come to a close, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower had warned us about, was concerned about needing to divert from the manufacture of wartime defoliants toward peaceful use. So Dow Chemical Company came up with slightly modified versions of the defoliants used in Vietnam and through the US Forestry Service began a program of defoliating our Arkansas hardwoods to allow faster growing pines to predominate. What a distressing thing that was. Just imagine helicopters spraying poisons over vast tracts of national forest. And what a terrifying thing it is when society at large adopts and industrialized approach to reality or to schooling.

Before Friedrich Froebel became a teacher, and before he in later years developed Kindergarten, he had been a mineralogist working with one of the foremost German scientists in the field of mineralogy. He had noted how a pattern among molecules at the center of a crystal would grow and grow from within, that same form infusing it throughout. As a mineralogist he recognized the same inherent patterning to be present in each living and unliving thing. Each of us and every child of course, if given proper conditions would grow to emulate the divinity within. The point of education, therefore, was to provide the conditions to achieve the development of each and every child's full potential, one that was encoded within the child from the outset. The growth and its potential was unlimited, as Froebel thought that one could be brought from isolation into wholeness with all life.

He recognized the pattern as follows. The child would be and feel united with its mother and father, and from there with the family, and from there with the community and with nature and from there with all life, as he or she takes a journey toward wholeness. That's the same order I've followed in my new book that is currently getting its first review by the publisher. Family, self, community and human culture.

It is interesting that that journey toward wholeness is never actually complete, and that it can help us to know what we're aiming at as we move forward, even through the worst of times. But then this requires us to make a small leap of faith, that we are here to serve something greater than ourselves

The photo shows some of my inlaid box lids made with the beautiful colors and textures of Arkansas hardwoods.

Make, fix and create.... assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

stone hammers


These images (if you are reading from facebook you'll see only one) are of a simple stone hammer that was found with others in a load of stone brought in when we had foundation repairs years ago. It is roughly made from chert and as you can see, was originally made to fit a hand very much like my own. To hold a tool like this reminds me of my kinship with those who lived here before.

Another similar stone felt awkward in my hand until I switched it from right to left and found it to be a perfect fit.

And so, these hills have been the home to our kind for well over 10,000 years. You have to look carefully for the signs of their occupancy, for they walked much more lightly on the earth.

Make, fix, create, and learn the skills and traditions of those who were here first. Our own sensitivities might evolve to the point at which we are able to preserve the gifts we've been given.

Monday, September 14, 2020

resumption of school...

Students at the Clear Spring School are returning to class today with serious controls in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus virus pandemic. 

Because of my age and risk factors, I will not be teaching directly during the start of the school year and it's a lonely feeling seeing the kids return while I'm set aside from full participation.

I was lucky to have grown up in more idyllic times, where children were allowed to play freely in the outdoors and with each other. I long for a return of those times. With careful planning, the bravery of teachers,  administrators and parents will bring those days back.

I place the blame for our current situation fully on the Republican administration and their enablers in Congress. In January, even before president Trump told Bob Woodward how serious the pandemic would be, one of his aids, Peter Navarro had written a letter of very stern warning about the dire effects on the population and on the economy, and yet that same man went on TV yesterday to claim no one know how bad the situation would be. They count on us all stupid enough to have not remembered what they've said, one minute to the next.

I'm am hopeful that at some point we have an administration that speaks honestly to the American people and is wiling to act in our defense, both with regard to the pandemic and to global warming. Had we been given clear guidance from the outset (and clear expert guidance was available), we would not be in this shameful situation today. I feel lonely and powerless like no time before in my own life.

A good question always comes up in a presidential election year. "Are you better off now that you were 4 years ago?" And if the answer is no, we do know what to do about it. Vote.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

still ticking

The photo shows my dad's US Army WWII Hamilton watch. I was surprised that upon winding it, that it works, but only for a short time. The lubricants inside are too dry for it to work continuously. After 75 years and 199 days of combat it needs a good cleaning and to have seals replaced. So I'm considering having it cleaned and brought back to working condition. Its ticking is faint, but with modern lubricants, it could last another 75 years or more.

We are in desperate times, very much like the dark days of WWII. We are fighting a war against two unseen dangers. One is the Covid-19 pandemic. We are warned that we'll be fighting on that front for another year or more. And after enduring 6 months of isolation, to better know what we're in for brings depressing thoughts. 

The other danger is ignorance and the rejection of expertise. You take the pandemic on one hand and the belief that it's a hoax on the other. Then you add to the mix a president who has knowingly lied to the American people who insists on having super-spreader events as part of his campaign. God help us all. President Trump told Bob Woodward that the was lying to prevent panic. But now we know that the only panic he cared about would be a panic on the stock market.

Our schooling was designed to build two classes of folks, those who'll get abstract learning and are advanced in it and those who don't get it, are made angry and frustrated by the educational system and fall into the trap of thinking it's equally OK to just make stuff up. We have a president who takes advantage of the "uneducated" he has professed to love. He says whatever he thinks is necessary to slide by, knowing that as the "chosen one" he can get away with it.

I live on 10 acres of forest, surrounded by many more, and this morning I'm sitting on my porch and thinking about the folks in California, Oregon and Washington, knowing that what I see now, the loveliness within my frame of view is what they've lost. What a tragic thing. And once again, I'm reminded of those who've been actively engaged in the manipulation of misinformation. The fossil fuel industry has known for many years what was to come and actively worked for years to deny the effects of global warming. Politicians (particularly in one party) have participated in purposeful advancement of denial in order to take advantage of folks who are now made to suffer in the conflagration between belief and reality. Hey, folks, in case you've not been paying attention to the real world, global warming is real and presents serious dangers to us all. Economically, physically and culturally.

I would prefer to talk about the hands and projects with kids, and about how the hands make us smart, how the hands make us better in all things, and about how the hands placed in service lead us toward a better, more compassionate understanding of ourselves and each other. I know you would rather I talk about those things.

But right now, I must tell you to vote. We have a president who cares only about himself.  He will cheat and use whatever illicit means he can to maintain power. Vote against that man and against all those who've stood  brazenly and fearfully in his support.

As I hold the Hamilton up to my ear, the ticking of democracy is faint. Perhaps younger ears will better hear its beat. Get out there. Give the Republican party the thrashing it deserves.

And in the meantime, make, fix and create, useful beauty in service of each other.

Friday, September 11, 2020

When a heart is empty

This editorial by David Brooks from the new York Times is worth reading. How does one develop empathy when one's heart is so small and so withered as to only have room for oneself?

Today I finished 48 laser engraved boxes that I can now deliver to a shop in downtown Eureka Springs.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

dereliction of duty

This is my dad's army issue Hamilton watch from WWII. He watched as thousands of these watches were run over by a steam roller on an airport tarmac to keep them from being carried home by servicemen and thus destroying the American watch market. It is a 17 jewel watch, and the inner workings were made to last a lifetime. The case was not.

I had a jeweler friend cover the case with gold as it was made of nickel plated bronze and was severely decayed. 199 days of combat will do that to a watch. After 75 years it is in need of cleaning to get it working again.

My father was in the 104th Infantry division the specialty of which was night fighting. The radium dial with numbers that glowed in the dark was a help with that.

What a difference we have been shown between courage in those days and what we see in Washington, DC now.

Now we learn that Trump was fully aware of the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, but downplayed it, in his words, to prevent panic. A bit of panic earlier would have saved thousands of lives. But what do human lives mean to those grasping at power?

We can expect Republicans in congress to rush to Trump's defense, as they always have in the past, too cowardly to stand up.  For Trump to have purposely and deceptively downplayed the severity of the threat was a serious dereliction of duty. He should once again be impeached. His enablers should be voted out of office. Do not forget to vote. Vote like the lives of your children and our democracy depend on it. 

In the meantime, I'm in the process of making 48 boxes for an order and will receive the engraved lids today to finish their assembly.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

our god-awful mess

How did we get in such a god-awful mess? We have whole groups who don't believe in science, and refuse to take steps to protect others from our deadly coronavirus pandemic. They have made their own refusal to wear masks a point of pride. So how would an anti-science view of the world emerge and be nourished? I place some of  the blame on our schooling... Not on the teachers but on the structures of education.

When I was in high school, they had a two-track system, on divergent rails. One track was to lead to college, and the other was to lead to the trades. The idea had been solidified back in the days of Woodrow Wilson's presidency.

In 1916, Congress passed and president Woodrow Wilson signed into law, the Smith-Hughes Act. The Smith-Hughes Act had been regarded as a victory for the manual arts, as it directed federal funding into vocational education, but not the kind of manual arts training that would touch the lives of all students.

Smith-Hughes isolated vocational education from the rest of the curriculum and from most school settings. Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton University had said:

 "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson 

He was talking about class divide and the need to sustain it through a two-tier educational system. Haven't we had fun with that?

Proponents of Educational Sloyd warned that building a class divide within the educational system would bring the end of democracy. One of the purposes of Educational Sloyd and it being offered to all students was that all students, in order for democracy to exist, was to build, within society, a respect for the dignity all labor, and through that for each other.

Some will remember Joe the Plumber during the 2008 presidential campaign. Joe was supposed to represent the common Joe, the guy who made it barely through schooling, and would therefore have an anti-academic bias after getting out from under the thumbs of "learning" and into the real world where he would discover all the stupid stuff that supposedly smart people put down pipes. He would certainly be smart about certain things, and perhaps not others. His curiosity about things that were unrelated to his actual survival had now become dead, for science (that academics love) and intellectual stuff were not brought successfully within his scope of interest. 

There are two things at play in education that are relevant to the nurturing of the Joe the Plumber types. One is that all students are not ready for abstract studies at the same time, and flexible schooling would allow for all to reach some level of interest and curiosity in science and abstract studies. Instead, we have a system that makes some students hate such things. Those students whose level of maturity  in engaging abstract studies are promoted as smart, only to show up later in the lives of the Joe the Plumber type for sticking stupid things in their toilets, proving to Joe that academia is not at all what it was cracked up to be, intelligence wise.

The second thing in play would be that those who had been deprived of manual training would have no awareness of the intelligence involved, and would likely develop little or no appreciation of those who labored in the trades. They would think that they were justified in their feelings of entitlement. After all, they'd been promoted successfully through their ranks and had unreasonable rationale for their economic success, never realizing or acknowledging the work by others that their own successes were founded on.

So if we have politics in which the flames of resentment and fear of each other are running wild in this election season, there are things we can do to fix things. And the first is to listen to each other and to be kind. The second is to value each other and the contributions we each make toward our success.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, September 07, 2020

Sanding with or against the grain

This is a simple demonstration using a paint brush and sanding block to explain the difference between sanding with the grain or against it. We get the best results in hand work, when the mind is also present.

Make, fix and create...

Worker's Hands...

 This link is to  lovely article on worker's hands:

 “I have clasped the hands of some rich people that spin not and toil not, and yet are not beautiful. Beneath their soft, smooth roundness what a chaos of undeveloped character.” — Helen Keller

For her, hands were windows on the soul.

Yesterday I worked on short videos and step-by- step photos in preparation for my students making tool boxes.

Make, fix, create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

dog tags

These are my dad's dog tags. The fact that there are two together means that he survived 199 days of combat in WWII and managed to come home from Germany and raise a family with my mom. He was no sucker for having served but his own sacrifice and service haunted him throughout his life. 

Members of the 104th Infantry Division were trained as night fighters, beginning combat in the dikes of Holland, and entering Germany in the fall of 1944. His troops held a defensive position at the side of the bulge during the winter of 1944-45 fighting in the Hurtgen Forest. As the harsh winter conditions began to pass, he and his infantry dug their way out of the mud and began their attack deep into Germany.

He was one of the first to cross the bridge at Remagen, assisted in the conquest of Cologne, then with his troops discovered the German Concentration camp at Nordhausen, and had to force German citizenry in cleaning up the bodies and rescuing the living from among them. If you have a strong stomach and are curious look up Camp Dora. My dad kept pictures of that in an old issue of Life Magazine as a reminder that we must never forget Hitler's atrocities.

If a soldier is killed in battle, his comrades will clip the shorter string and keep one of the tags as evidence of death, while the longer cord will be left around the neck of the dead.

We seem to have a president who does not consider service and sacrifice to be worthwhile human objectives. My dad was a lifelong Eisenhower Republican. I am proud of his service.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in living and learning likewise.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Yesterday, and last night

Yesterday I added some small storage cabinets to the outdoor classroom at Clear Spring School so that teachers will have places to keep supplies. The outdoor classroom will get a lot of use with the need for social distancing. At home I'm trying to learn about Google Classroom to enable me to better present lessons from afar.

At about 56,000 words, I sent a file off yesterday to my new publisher, Linden Press, with the hopes that the owner of the press likes what I've written. My working title is Wisdom of Our Hands, Crafting family, self, community and human culture. It is somewhat autobiographical but also a manifesto of sorts, calling for a gentle revolution in which we craft better lives for ourselves and each other by paying attention to the necessity that we each be creatively engaged.

Last night I dreamed about a dear friend Roger Dale. I was visiting him in his classroom to talk about an idea I had (previously unknown to me) that spot glazing of pottery could be accomplished with a torch. The idea was that you could take bisque ware, apply a glaze in a spot and then heat that spot with a torch until you saw the glaze melt. 

Roger and I discussed the complications of distance learning, and he began digging through files and putting papers in a folder that the thought might be of use to me. I asked how he was managing with the Covid-19 crisis and he told me that he was planning to die from it. "Have you told your mother?" I asked, then remembered that she had died years ago.

One of the points I try to make in the book is that even without facebook and twitter, we are connected with each other in unseen ways. The book is a bit different from other books about the hands, as it is a more personal account, more personal than I had intended, and I hope engaging. 

The owner of the press notified me that he's received my file and looks forward to reading it.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020


I received a copy of the Autumn 2020 issue of Quercus Magazine from the UK. It is published by a friend Nick Gibbs for whom I used to write articles a few years back.

This issue holds several articles of  interest, but most special to me is an introduction to my new book The Guide to Woodworking with Kids. It is nice to see that this new book is being introduced to an audience in the UK.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in living and learning lifewise.