Building on Book Learning
My "Wisdom of the Hands" program at the Clear Spring School has high-school students who started working with me in the school shop when they were in first grade, and if you don't think there's some real magic in that, think again.
For example, just the other day I was able to work quietly on my own project while one of my students, Rosie, turned wood on the lathe. I invite others who love woodworking to do just what I did—invite in a child. There is no better thing in the world than to share what you know and what you love with a younger generation.
As an active shop teacher, I was quoted by Matthew Crawford in his best-selling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: "In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged."
Although Crawford does not seem to agree that the engagement of the hands is an absolute necessity for all students, he notes that most of us, particularly in this digital age, would benefit greatly from becoming engaged as creators of the objects that have significance in our own lives. And he agrees with me that schools should play a much greater role in fostering tangible, personal creativity.
It used to be that schools offered all kinds of learning opportunities for children of every possible inclination. But of late, they've become so focused on standardized test scores and academic-style learning that, unless your children are lucky enough to learn in a school like mine, you'll need to take matters into your own hands. So invite your own child, grandson or granddaughter into your woodshop and learn firsthand—the experience will benefit the both of you.