One of the frequent responses to wood turnings which are seen at craft shows or homes is the familiar sentence, “I did that back in high school.” This is usually followed by a musing on how close that was to twenty, thirty or more years ago. Unfortunately this is being lost from the students of today.
Many of our schools in Canada and the United States have begun to cut back on what are regarded as extra programs as our baby boomer population ages and the number of students in our school systems dwindles. However, the type of students we receive into the schools has not changed. The diversity of interests held by various young people has remained legion, although we might divide them into some broad categories.
Some are academically oriented and are destined for college. It is understood by many educators that these children need the challenge of advanced courses in maths and sciences as well as a solid grounding in the liberal arts. While it might be understood that music would be valuable for them, the same is seldom thought about auto mechanics, home economics or carpentry.
Another group seems to be at school to major in sports and feels that the course work is a necessary but not sought after evil. Theirs in the world of movement and athletic endeavor where results are measured in the accomplishment of short term goals, the winning of a game , that lead to greater opportunities, the local or national championships. There is a great question as to whether something like industrial arts would be a reasonable educational avenue or a waste of time, particularly as many of these students are hoping for an athletic scholarship which would entail excellence on the playing field and good marks as well.
The third group is seldom considered. These are the people who love to work with their hands. Some are artistic while others are people who appreciate a fine craft. Many of our schools, as has been mentioned, seem to think that these people need no education and leave them to their own resources when it comes to exposure to and education in their chosen interest. However, these are the very people who keep much of our civilization going. They will be the ones who learn to fix the plumbing, check the brakes on the car, cook our meals, wire our homes and so on.
Many of this third group will be labeled trouble makers by their schools because their educational needs are largely ignored. With their hand-on style of learning thwarted by the educational system they tend to become bored and bored students are trouble making students.
One solution may be the re-introduction of wood turning to the educational curriculum. For a modest investment schools can move in lathes and tools for a class. The academic crowd can experiment with design and artistic development while the athletic group can find challenge and easily viewed short term and long term goals. Those who love to work with their hands are self explanatory. While a wood lathe and a turning course is not a panacea for all our educational ills, it is a good starting point for many of our children.
Of course there is the problem of budgets to consider. Wood turners are generally a group of people who love to share what they have learned about the craft. Some wood turning clubs have begun very popular after school programs with volunteers to teach wood turning to interested students. While this is not as ideal as teaching wood turning as part of the curriculum or for that matter as part of a full industrial arts program, it is a possibility for schools on limited budgets to reach the interests of some of their students.