Sunday, March 8, 2009

Carpenter's Rule

Between the ages of 11 & 18, I was put in an educational straight-jacket called Dudley Grammar School.

The fact that it was boys-only should have alerted me that it was divorced from the real world, but it seemed normal at the time.

Run by an apparently fossilized headmaster, the school presented everything in a totally abstract & academic manner.
All subjects seemed to consist of tables to learn & regurgitate at exam time.
History was a list of names & dates of kings & battles.
Geography was a list of population numbers, average temperatures & rainfall.
Latin was a list of nouns, adjectives, verbs & conjugations.
French & German were treated exactly like Latin.

I don't think anybody mentioned that there were real live French people actually talking to each other in real live French, and not that far away!
Certainly nobody mentioned Germans – they were unmentionable in those days.

The words "useful" or "interesting" were never applied.

Incongruously, first-year pupils also did woodwork.
I can't imagine how that happened, maybe nobody told the headmaster.
The first term's project was a T-shaped garden dibber, with straight planed sides, square sawn corners, a 4 x 45° point and a mortise & tenon joint made with chisels.
I probably still have it somewhere - unused.
This was as near as we ever got to reality.

But we did learn one useful thing in woodwork, which I still remember & still use:
If walking around with a chisel, or anything similarly sharp, put & keep your index finger immediately behind the sharp bit.
The explanation was that your brain subconsciously keeps track of where your fingers are & hence where the sharp point is.
The result is that you don't accidentally puncture a passing pupil or chip the school chisel on some wayward wall.

It seems a meagre harvest from seven years of schooling, but better than nothing, I suppose.

Parting thot: "Measure twice – cut once." - Carpenter's rule

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