Prelude to Permaculture
I entered craft teaching in 1965 at a time when most boys entered five year apprenticeships on leaving school. The craft apprenticeship was still considered to be a rite of passage into adulthood and a secure future for boys.
My specialism was metalwork with its divisions into bench work, beaten metalwork, sheet metalwork, machine work and forge work. Parallel with this I took boys to annual camp each summer. A high spot in 1967 was the filming of the construction by two craftsmen, a wheelwright and a blacksmith of making a cartwheel at the Staffordshire County museum. Taking a group of boys on a lightweight camping expedition through Shropshire that year and a group of canoeists down river to Burton–on–Trent to return by canal the following year demonstrated the value of open air challenges to boys with some surprising reversals where troublemakers in class excelled and the more compliant often found the going tough.
The changes beginning to take place in industrial practices soon began to erode the integrity that had long been the norm in the wood and metal crafts. Plastics were now making their appearance, a metal funnel that took time in making the patterns and fitting two cones to a cylinder could now be found at Woolworths for a few pence. The careful selection of timber, its preparation and skilful crafting of joints in woodwork was now being replaced by composite boards and plastic fittings.
Fifty years on we now see every part of the ocean sharing what has been estimated at eight million tons of plastic waste a year A review of the effects of this in the National Environmental Research Council magazine ‘Planet Earth’ in summer 2015 stated - ’Scientists now know that plastic waste is both a physical and chemical hazard, and that eating it does measurable harm to marine creatures. NERC research is improving our understanding and awareness of the effects on sea life and along the food chain, including on humans.’
I still have a metal watering can that I found here in the hedge in 1975 bearing the painted price 3/6 (3s. 6d).. It could be 50 years old and is used every day.
On a recent visit to our local recycling depot I was shocked to see the huge pile of discarded kitchen units thrown away as fashions changed. At the same time apprentice pieces are bringing good prices at auction.
I left craft teaching in 1969 for two reasons. A recent meeting within the department had concluded that we could no longer guarantee the safety of pupils as indiscipline in the classrooms began to spread into the workshop areas. In loco parentis we had neither exclusions, sin bins nor detention to deter the would-be trouble maker. I was also attracted to the opportunity to keep abreast of the changes in industry and society that career counselling afforded and 45 years on I still maintain a watchful eye and express my concerns.