Monday, February 28, 2022

woodworking network

My new book, "the Wisdom of Our Hands," has received a glowing review on 

It is an incredibly thoughtful review written by editor, Will Sampson. Woodworkers in general have a deep appreciation of what the hands provide to learning. Perhaps we can lead the way to a renewal of American education.

Thanks, Bob, for alerting me to the publication of the review.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The soul of the craftsman.

They used to say that politics ends at the water's edge, which meant that when faced with crises that are international in scope, folks would suspend criticism of leadership to present a united stance. That is no longer the case, as some Republicans and talking heads on one of our major networks attempt to use the crisis in Ukraine to sew discord among us and undermine our leadership in the international response. What can I say, but shame, shame, we know your names and will deal with you later.

In the meantime, a friend of mine has been selected to make the keynote address to the Hand Society, on the subject, "the Soul of a Craftsman." He asked me to offer a few reflections on the subject.

I don’t know that all buy the idea that there is a soul, but if there is indeed a soul connected with each of us, or that connects each of us with each other at some deep barely detectable level (and I suspect there is), the soul of a craftsman tends to be deep and wide. For some folks, the soul, if it could be found, it might be nothing more than a shriveled up raisin of what it might have become. For the craftsman, the soul is reflected in our deep engagement in the materials of our choice. It’s also deep  and wide in that we’ve chosen such means to connect with others that demands the cultivation of skill and taking personal risk. 

There’s a great quote from Chaucer that I used in my new book around p. 42. It’s about the development of craftsmanship and discusses the challenge of it. "The lyf so short, the craft so long to learn, the' assay so hard, so sharp the conquerying." In that is the soul developed and portrayed. I do not believe soul is something that’s developed in a vacuum, but is something exercised in real life and in the challenges we face. 

What is meant by Chaucer's "assay so hard?" The word assay refers to the analysis of things, like of an ore from which other minerals may be extracted. And so it is with the soul. We can try to extract it, and perhaps to no avail. But we do see it in action. At this moment I'm thinking of the courageous men and women of Ukraine and their president... There is of course, some courage on the other side, on the wrong side, on the evil side, on the inhumane side. May Putin and those Americans who support him please come to their senses.

I got a lovely card in the mail from my friend Bob Ebendorf, an internationally known jeweler/teacher/craftsman. His postcards are his preferred means of communication, and each is hand made from recycled stuff. This one celebrates the coming release of my new book and he found a picture of me in a pensive state to paste on the front. The picture is from an article I did in Fine Woodworking a few years back.

Make, fix and create. Help the people of Ukraine to stand firm and with heart.

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Moscow Finger

In Riga, Latvia, the Soviets built a highly controversial "Victory Monument" to honor their defeat of Nazi Germany. The Latvians call it the "Moscow Finger," as it juts 76 meters in the air and serves them as a reminder of years of Soviet imposed trauma that followed WWII. The Latvian people hate that thing.

There have been efforts over the years to have it demolished, even though about 25% of Latvian citizens are of Russian origin and use the Russian language. Folks generally want to get along with each other. It has been kept standing on a slim margin.

I suspect that now they will actually get around to tearing the thing down. The Latvian people must be reeling as they watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As are others in Estonia and Finland.

I read that both Finland and Sweden are now interested in joining NATO, having seen up close what a tyrant Putin has become.

I'm grateful for those Russians who have demonstrated against Putin's war. It takes courage to stand up against a powerful totalitarian state.

In the meantime, here in the US, some members of the Republican Party and television hosts on Fox News are trying to give aid and comfort to Putin by attacking president Joe Biden. It was once believed that politics ended at the water's edge. That seems to no longer be the case. Giving Biden the "Moscow finger" is apparently what  some have in mind. The photo is from our visit to Riga in 2018.

Now Russia is threatening Sweden and Finland with severe military consequences if they join NATO. It makes great sense for them to join now.

Thursday, February 24, 2022


About 3 1/2 years ago my wife and I visited in Helsinki, Estonia and Latvia, and it is with great sadness that we witness the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ugliness of Russian dominion over neighbors is tragic. The pattern among oligarchs is to strip assets from their own people and to then launder their ill-gotten gains and invest them abroad for their further enrichment, so we hope that sanctions will have some affect.

In Latvia we visited the KGB museum in a building that actually served as the headquarters of the KGB, the network of Soviet secret Police that were used to bring the Latvian populace under Russian control. Their remembrance of KGB horrors remains vivid. And we can know Putin by knowing the KGB. The KGB provided the platform for his ascent to power. In the short term, things are unlikely to go well for Ukraine. In the long term, people will remember who Putin is and with luck will hold him personally accountable.

Entering the KGB museum you are met by a Russian guard (a living history actor who had actually served as a Russian prison guard, during the Soviet occupation of Riga). His harsh demeanor toward all guests as he matter of factly describes what went on within the walls of the former KGB headquarters leaves a strong taste of what it was actually like. The photos and video interviews with victims of the KGB and the visit to the killing spot where Latvian citizens were executed will leave you chilled, as will the prison room where more than a hundred victims were confined naked, crowded in to the point where they lay massed in filth.

Authorities in Latvia and Estonia have called for the NATO article 4 to be discussed. Article 4 requires that when one NATO nation is attacked all others must come to its aid.

If you want to know more about what Ukraine is facing in areas that the Russians occupy a visit to the KGB museum would be informative. The image shows our (former) Russian guard in the area where Latvian patriots and common citizens were murdered by the KGB. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Garden of Children

Friends Scott, Jay and John are doing a kickstarter campaign to assist them in furthering their Kindergarten documentary series. I made a contribution because it's a vital view into the workings of childhood and might assist in a much needed reform of education. You can contribute here:

The video series shows some of our students and contains interviews with over 100 educational experts pointing the way toward meaningful reform of education.

You can find trailers on youtube or view this extended trailer for a small rental fee here:

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

American Craft Book Review

The Spring 2022 edition of American Craft Magazine, p. 18 has a review of my new book as shown. The text reads as follows: 

"Educator and craftsman Doug Stowe has long been exploring what it means to be a maker. In a collection of thoughtful, self-reflective essays, Stowe delves into the important lessons that working with our hands can teach us and the deeper meaning that brings to our lives."

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

Friday, February 18, 2022

algebra anyone?

All too often, the perceived value of an object is based on market demand rather than on the qualities the making of it offers the maker. The photo above is an example of my mother's craft work from when she was a teen. The quality of her work may not have been at the level of work done by her mother or grandmother, but as stated by Otto Salomon, the value of the student's work is not in the work, but in the student. To make such an object imparts qualities to the maker... a fact neglected in modern American education.

The making of such objects is part of the process of development of character and intelligence, and as we have become a nation of consumers rather than makers, we have grown more and more out of touch.

The piece shown above is an example of a needlework technique called crochet. Another form for making lace patterns is tatting. Both were part of the compulsory school curriculum for women in Finland, and as shown in the photo below, the University of Helsinki still has a room dedicated to their collection of student work which I visited in 2008.

Each drawer on the wall in the background is filled with amazing works of student craftsmanship, the intellectual content of each piece leaving the viewer in awe.

It is interesting how much emphasis is placed on instruction in algebra, a thing most students will not use following graduation, even in college unless they're judged deficient and placed in remedial classes.

I'll go out on a limb here to suggest that the value of fine lacework may be of equal or greater value in the construction of a solid mind than balancing algebraic equations, and of equal value to algebra in mathematics through the building of spatial sense. Spatial sense is a factor in mathematics that is useful in all occupations, and even helps in doing algebra.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, February 17, 2022

my new book arrived

A copy of my new book arrived today. The release date through and other outlets is planned for March 22, 2022, and we have a book signing planned for Eureka Springs on April 3.

Yesterday I did an interview with Foreword Reviews that will be posted online near the time of the book's release.

Make, fix and create...

Bluebird houses and 16 bit kits.

Yesterday in wood shop, students and I finished 10 bluebird houses as part of their outdoor studies class. Six of the bird houses are being sold to supporters of the school, and one or two will be installed on campus for students to tend and observe. Left-overs will be sold at a Clear Spring School event near the end of the school year.

Also yesterday, my Rainbow Group (kindergarten) tested our 16 bit building kits. The sixteen bit building kit is one that our small business studies class will be taking by appointment to demonstrate to big business giant Walmart next week.

While many woodworking kits designed by adults lack the opportunity for child creativity to emerge, the sixteen bit kits each contain 16 blocks of wood, a glue stick and sanding strip that allow the kids to design and make whatever they want. In a test with 7 kindergarten aged students, each came up with their own unique project. 

The students in the small business class have been designing the packaging for four project kits. One contains parts for making tops. One contains parts for making flip cars. One contains the parts for building a Soma cube puzzle, and the last is the 16 bit kit. The students are also working on their sales pitches that will be offered to a Walmart product specialist. The point is to get pointers on product sales and design.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Putting a child on the bus...

On Friday I had  an interesting conversation with professor Bart Kahr, from NYU who is a crystallographer and an enthusiast for Froebel's Kindergarten. I had wanted to contact Dr. Kahr because of comments he'd made about his son's first day of school, in the Kindergarten Documentary Film Series.

As Dr. Kahr described, he took his son to the bus after having spent years in which he had kept his son constantly in sight. He watched his son climb onto the bus and noted that upon delivering his own precious son to the state, he didn't even get a receipt. His comments so perfectly mirror what all parents feel, and perhaps might help us to understand the angst that so many parents feel about education. Are loving parents ever fully ready to simply surrender our children to the arms of the state? We must do a lot more to build trust.

In our conversation Dr. Kahr described what came next after he watched his son climb onto the bus. He was living in Seattle at the time, and feeling confused and out of sorts, he walked to the nearest coffee shop and then to the book store where he found a stack of Norm Brosterman's book Inventing Kindergarten for sale. Had he not just put his son onto the bus for his first day of Kindergarten, he would not have found the book, nor would he likely have been interested in the book, nor would he have discovered in it the intense relationship between Kindergarten and crystallography, his own field of scientific study.

Froebel had been an assistant to Christian Samuel Weiss  and was influenced by his study of crystals in his development of his gifts and perhaps also in his understanding of how children grow from a pattern inherent from within if provided the right circumstances for their growth. For Dr. Kahr, discovery of Froebel's Kindergarten had an important affect on  the direction of his work as a crystallographer, even to the point of growing crystals with kindergarten kids, a thing we can do with kids at the Clear Spring School. Dr. Kahr's work includes growing crystals in color, which he also suggests we can do as shown in this video. The image shown above is from that video.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Ozarks Watch online

The Ozarks Watch video filmed at ESSSA about hands-on learning can now be viewed online at your convenience.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop we'll be working on bird houses and bird feeders. 

Kindergarten students will be making boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, February 07, 2022

Harbor Freight Fellows

Harbor Freight Fellows continues to repost some of my blog/facebook posts on occasion as they did today.

It's a reminder that we're all in this together and there are many hands working on educational reform.

Make, fix and create...

perfect for radio...

Yesterday I watched myself on the Ozarks Watch video production, and have decided TV does not put me in my best light. I've gotten a bit too old for that kind of spotlight. The old joke, "you look perfect for radio comes to mind."

In any case, however, I did manage to tell my tale and get some word out about our Eureka Springs School of the Arts and about the need for hands on learning. The crew took some nice video of my boxes and of the school and I thank them sincerely for their interest in my career and their kindness during the production of the show.

Pre-orders of the new book are going well with over 1200 copies being ordered so far.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, February 06, 2022

putting education on fresh path.

Today, February 6, 2022, Ozark Public Television's program Ozarks Watch features an interview with me recorded at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Locally or on local satellite, look for channel 21. The program airs from 1:30 to 2:30 with my segment being the second half.

News around the country is that being an educator is an endangered profession. Teachers are disrespected and undervalued and are leaving the profession in droves. Teachers with a masters degree in education often leave the profession in their first five years. This is in part due to the unreasonable expectations placed upon teachers—too large class sizes, the rigid expectation of teaching exactly by the book, and the use of standardized testing to measure student and teacher performance, while neglecting the fact that each student and each teacher is unique.

Let's go back to one of the basic principles of educational sloyd, that of moving from the concrete to the abstract. If you want to  become a teacher at one of the diminishing number of colleges and universities that offer that course of study, you'll spend hours and hours of class time and reading to prepare for your final year in which you'll do student teacher, in school training under the watchful eye of a licensed professional teacher. 

If you recognize the value of moving from the concrete to the abstract, you might notice that teacher training is backwards. To enter the teaching profession the educationally sound manner would be to serve in schools as a teaching aide while concurrently being taught the fundamental theories and history of education in college coursework. A program like I'm proposing should be set up in every neighborhood in the US.

There are some significant values in the reversal I propose. The first is that while teachers are working on their degrees they'd be earning salaries as teacher's aides instead of amounting debt. Secondly they would be given a view of what they were getting into long before having invested years in a career that they so quickly abandon. The third value is that with almost all students and teachers in the US suffering from too large classes and too little classroom help, a massive investment in new teachers aides, each working toward full credentials, would completely re-energized schooling. One of the areas of education needing the most help is in integration of the arts to build science thinking. We need to enlist scores of young artists to help as aides for these reasons: 

“The discoveries of science, the works of art are explorations — more, are explosions, of a hidden likeness. The discoverer or the artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one. This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art.” —Jacob Bronowski

Those are just my thoughts on this sunny February day a it warms in Arkansas and snow melts.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, February 04, 2022

Ozarks Watch

Last night at 9 Ozarks Public Television broadcast an interview with me and I forgot it was being aired. It will be rebroadcast on Sunday February 6 at 1:30 PM in case you missed it as I did. Later it will be made available on the network website. I'll share the address when its available to me. 

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

An article link

This is a link to the article in Independent School if you want to read it online and pass it along for others to read. NAIS - School News: Two Decades of Woodshop Class.

Today we're out of school due to a serious winter storm watch. Hopefully as the temperature is dropping below freezing we'll avoid the worst effects of ice accumulation that breaks trees and power lines.

I'm working on promotion of my new book by writing op-ed pieces to submit to various newspapers and magazines. It is fun to reflect on the various benefits of woodworking education. 

In the wood shop at School this week my students helped me by whittling pens and allowing me to take photos of them as they worked. The photo shows a simple jig for drilling the holes where the nibs fit. The kids were able to drill their own pen making stock.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

independent school

An article about the Wisdom of the Hands program at the Clear Spring School is in the Winter 2022 issue of "Independent Schools Magazine" that's published by the National Association of Independent Schools. 

The article tells that we are celebrating our twentieth year of a program designed to bring the hands to greater focus and attention in schools. Over the years we've had a number of articles about the program in various woodworking magazines, and mention in the New York Times and Boston Globe. This is the second article about our Wisdom of the Hands program in "Independent Schools Magazine."

Yesterday in class we whittled  writing pens to allow me to take a few photos for a magazine article. The kids enjoyed it and tested their work using real ink.

Make, fix and create.