Beth and I just participated in Turning Around Boston, an initiative by the Eliot School to bring a basic woodworking experience to Boston Public School students through the month of October. The students ages ranged from Kindergarten to High School and we also visited a few community centers, and a some after school programs. In total, we reached over 1,030 young people and, with the help of many volunteers, we introduced students to files, rasps, clamps, sandpaper, and along with that came sawdust, eager and engaged work, and many smiles. The most consistent statement that we heard was, “I have never seen them concentrate so well.” And, “Wow, they are really focused.” What is it about working with tools to solve problems that engages so many students? I believe it is in our human DNA and as budgets are cut and electives are eliminated, the wonderful benefit of developing hand skills and working in wood has been taken away from many public school children across the country and in Boston too. It is one thing to understand this intellectually, and another to witness the besieged state many schools are in because of funding problems and problematic politics. I was raised to believe in the progressive idea of training children to be well rounded citizens, in order for them to participate in developing a healthy inclusive democracy. This is why I joined with Beth in teaching woodworking, I believe strongly in the mission of Turning Around America and the work at the Eliot School we do need woodworking classes, and to also offer more vocational hands on training, because the result will be more empowered, independent, and happy citizens.
Democracy begins in our hands and in our schools.