Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Early proponents of manual arts training, particularly of Educational Sloyd, and including John Dewey, believed that manual arts training was essential for all students, including those students from the upper class. These educators feared that a two-tier educational system would  perpetuate a two-tier society that would spell the end to democracy.

Woodrow Wilson before he became president of the US had been president of Princeton University and promoted the idea that we needed a small intellectual elite, and a much larger class or workers well trained to support them. So, as president, he signed the Smith-Hughes Act into law which set up separate manual training schools for that purpose, dividing the education of the hands from the education of the mind, making  folks less sensitive in both directions. The Smith-Hughes Act funded separate manual training schools and divided most schools along the lines of college prep and vocational training tracks.

One of the ideals proposed by Otto Salomon and others was that by all education building upon real experiences in manual arts, all students would gain a respect for the dignity of all labor. Wilson's approach turned labor into a commodity, to be bought and paid for while the pockets of the rich filled to bursting beyond any reasonable notion of real usefulness. The rich, not knowing the value of the working class, could not give a flip about their needs. So we have deep anger in America. And with Trump's refusal to concede the loss of the election, we witness the failure of education to provide deeper understanding. 

With a change of administrations, I hope we can again note and promote the value of manual arts training, not just to develop workers, but to develop a populace in which we show care for each other. 

The photo shows teachers in training at Salomon's teacher training academy in Nääs, Sweden. I want all to note the high proportion of women training to be teachers of woodworking sloyd.

Make, fix and create...

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