Stickley here discusses the innate value of woodworking as a recreational activity and goes into the best methods to educate youth in woodworking.
Woodworking as Recreation
¶ Every one knows the relief to brain workers and to professional men that is found in this kind of work (woodworking). It not only affords a wholesome change of occupation but brings into play a different set of faculties and so proves both restful and stimulating. A professional or business man who can find relief from his regular work in some such pursuit, which he takes up as a recreation, does better work in his own vocation because he is a healthier and better balanced man and his interest in his home grows more vivid and personal with every article of furniture that he makes with his own hands and according to his own ideas.
¶ As for the means of education afforded by this kind of work, woodworking, we have no better proof than is shown by the widespread belief in the efficacy of manual training in our public schools, although to a practical craftsman there would seem to be plenty of room for improvement, both as to methods of teaching and the quality of workmanship that is required from the students. Where manual training is taken up purely on account of the mental development it affords, there is a tendency to make it entirely academic. The teachers for the most part rely almost wholly upon theory and have very little practical knowledge of the thing they teach. The result is that a boy is encouraged to express his own individuality in designing and making the thing that appeals to him instead of being taught sound principles of design and construction and so guided by a competent worker that all his own work is based upon these principles and is thoroughly done. If the work is merely regarded as play, the theoretical attitude toward the expression of individuality is all right; but if it is regarded as a preparation for the serious business of later life, the result shows that it unfits the student for real work in just such measure as he shows an aptitude for play work.
Craftsman Style Woodworking Training
¶ The introduction of the Craftsman style has practically revolutionized manual training in our public schools, because it has placed at the disposal of the teachers designs of such simplicity and clearness of construction that the work of teaching has been made much easier and the field of manual training has been greatly broadened. Before the introduction of Craftsman furniture, manual training in the schools rested chiefly upon sloyd, which was confined to the making of small articles entirely for the sake of the mental development afforded by the intelligent use of the hands. Now, however, the students of manual training are learning to make furniture after such models as we show here and the very necessary element of usefulness is added to the things they make. The only difficulty is that the craft itself is not well enough understood by the teachers to be imparted to the students in such a way that they derive any permanent benefit from it. The teaching is, as we have said, largely theoretical and the object of the whole training is mental development along general lines rather than the moral development that comes from learning to do useful work thoroughly and well. As cabinetwork is handled in the manual training departments of the schools, it is distinctly a side issue, and exhibitions of the work to which public attention is frequently invited show ambitious pieces of furniture that are wrongly proportioned, badly put together and finished in a slovenly way, thus producing exactly the opposite effect upon the pupil from what is intended. If the State or municipal authorities would see to it that manual training in the form of woodworking of all kinds, and especially the making of furniture, were placed under the charge of thoroughly skilled craftsmen who understood and were able to teach all the principles of construction, the moral and educational effect of such work would be almost incalculable.
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