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Jewelry / Metal assignments

Hi Everyone, I’m going to be teaching metals/jewelry next term.
Where I previously taught we were on the semester system. This new
class will be four weeks shorter than I am used to. So, I am
questioning what projects are most important - what can I cut or how
much time can I crop from a project. This whole thing has made me
start wondering in general what projects are most important. I would
love to hear what some consider their most effective assignments or
the most important assignments. Or, as a student, what did you
learn the most from? Thanks so much.

Verna Holland

What all do you try to cover now? It makes a difference if you are
trying to teach hollowware making and jewelry making. What are the
course objectives in the syllabus? Are you expected to teach design
as well? How long are your classes, how many credits do student get
for the class and how much time are students supposed to spend
working outside of actual class time?

Marilyn Smith

Wow Verna. You must think fogies can remember a long ways back ;->
Anyway, I think the most useful skills for a beginning jewelry
course center around sawing, filing, fitting, soldering/annealing,
and polishing. Bezel-setting cabs is pretty important too. That’s
alot to squeeze into the typical 3 hour, twice weekly art lab,
especially if there are more than 15 students. I hope you’ve got
enough equipment so that projects aren’t slowed up by a bottleneck. I
remember the classic beginner project of sawing out a band (18 ga
sheet) and soldering it. I learned how easy it is to break saw
blades and the value of polishing and fluxing before soldering.
Next was using wire to make links that were soldered for a chain -
not so simple when the goal is to make consistently shaped links.
Great soldering practice.

When I began to be a little cocky about my soldering ability, I made
a sunflower pin that involved forged petals soldered to a center
with a bezel-set cab. Multiple solder joints!! That was a reality
check - I have kept that project and still shake my head over my
youthful lack of hubris! A casting project is a good finale.
Understanding the whole process is very useful, whether one ever
casts again or not.

I’m anxious to see the other responses and wish you the best of luck
on your teaching. Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

Making a box catch,It teaches precision sawing,soldering ,metal
hardening , how to make any size box,small item filing and polishing
and the sound a good box catch should make when closing it. I use
what I learned all the time, thank you John Gogswell, Bill from L.I.

Ah, the band ring. One of the standard assignments for our Beg.
Jewelry class. This simple excercise has everything for the
beginner, soldering, filing, sawing, texturing and annealing. It
gives the beginners mastery of their material, not the other way

I give my more advanced students the box catch which they are all
making now. First in brass, next in silver. Alan’s book is great
for this. Step by step, they made one out of heavy Bristol Board
and then to metal. They are learning to measure. They learn to
read directions, make models and write down what mistakes they made.

One of my students were looking for the correct millimeter width of
brass sheet. They couldn’t find it and asked me for some. I said,
hey, “there’s a rolling mill over there. How about using that nice
tool to thin your stock”. A big smile came across her face as she
looked at me. “Wow, that’s right. Now I know what you mean about
mastering the material”.

As a teacher, I live for those moments.

Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph: 781/891-3854
Fx: 781/891-3857
email: @Karen_Christians

Hi Verna… As a recent former student, this is what the
metals/jewelry courses I took entailed: In the intro course, the
first project was to be a ‘fastener’ (belt buckle, pin, etc.),
followed with projects concerning linkage (chains and the like),
hinges, and cab stone setting. We also saw a lot of slides, recieved
a lot of handouts, did a lot of drawings and paper models, and were
enouraged to try out tools that we might not use on our own. The next
course we covered faceted stone setting, casting, basic enameling, a
series of small pieces, and (groan) a research paper. Every course
afterwards was a studio course; the first week of the semester,
students submitted proposals of what they are going to accomplish on
their own for the term. The most important thing, I think, that
should be covered (with first-time metals students, especially), is
safety, safety, safety (can I honestly say this enough?) And I have
to most highly recommend “The Complete Metalsmith” by Tim McCreight
as a required textbook. It’s $15 (or less), and covers many
techniques, project/assignment ideas, and in general is chock full
of knowledge that I know I couldn’t be without. (To this day my
battered book has its own honored place on my bench.) Hope this was a
help, and have a blast teaching what we all love! -emily

The one first semester assignment that sticks out in my mind as
being really effective was to take two pieces of different metals,
like silver and copper, cut to the same size. Scribe a wavy line or
similar on one piece of metal and cut it out. Take one of the "wavy"
pieces and file to the line. Overlay that piece onto the other metal
and scribe the same line. Cut out the opposite piece. Try to file
the other piece so that the two pieces fit together and you can’t see
light through the joint and it’s the same size as either original
piece of metal. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and is a great sawing
and filing project. Wendy Newman

My very first metalsmithing assignment at the University of Iowa was
to make a utensil. I made a set of brass eating utensils. Due to
unclear instructions and no place to buy supplies locally, I
soldered it with lead solder. So if the lead didn’t get you, the
brass would.

They were rather horrid. In fact, the head of the department
happened by during critique and stopped just to insult them.

My final project for that class was a gold ring. The teaching
assistant said, well you went from this (brass utensils) to this
(gold ring), pretty impressive. I got an A in the class, despite
having been insulted by a woman with a teapot in the Art Institute
of Chicago. And, 13 years later, I’m still metalsmithing.

But to the question, it’s an interesting assignment because of the
challenge of the function. We also had to make a container and a
light fixture of some sort – a lamp or a candle holder.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992


I don’t normally make generalizations but will stick my neck out on
this one. I did not take ‘jewelry making’ in college, being
preoccupied with politics and international relations at the time.
But talking with some of my current students and others who have
taken college level courses in the jewelry arts, I get a loooot of
negative feedback!! Useless projects, professors who don’t seem to
care or who are themselves incompentent, and long courses of doing
little or nothing. Not to say there aren’t good ones out there but
from what I have learned, they are in the minority. Of course, there
are many excellent ‘jewelry art’ schools and schools teaching
specific skills for artisans.

My view, if anyone is interested, is that learning projects are not
so significant in the thing that is made but rather the how the thing
is made. Let me give an example.

In my 7/8 week courses, the beginner will learn and do three
projects aimed at teaching the basics of: (1)design/engineering
(emphasis is on engineering…the how to proceed kind of thing…what
are the steps to get from sheet and wire to a finished product.

(2) sawing/piercing (this is probably the most basic of all hands on
processes. To learn it, they create a ‘solderless setting’ which,
when finished, has all the components of a finished piece of
jewelry…prongs holding a stone, a bail to hang it or ring shank to
wear it, and fully finished metal. There is no soldering, just a lot
of sawing, filing and finishing. It is usually in either brass or

(3) Metal manipulation/formulation. The project is a SS 12 or 14ga
twisted wire ring. It starts with sizing one’s finger, figuring the
length of wire, bending in half, twisting, and rolling flat.

(4) Continuing on, the student learns the some metalurgy and basics
of using a torch and how to anneal/solder (or, as I say, braze)
metal. After the annealing, the ring is ‘formed’ or bent round and
prepared for soldering. A lecture on soldering protocol and the ring
is soldered.

(5) Fininishing. Students then reapply the basics of smoothing and
polishing the metal learned in the first project.

The third project is an open back square wire bearing under a free
form stone. It teaches detailed wire bending and more practice
soldering. Then they engineer how to hold the stone by strategically
placing 4 to 8 prongs soldered one by one onto the outside of the
flat wire, followed by learning to make a jump ring that is also
soldered onto the wire frame. By the time they finish soldering on
all those prongs and the jump, they know how to solder. The last
part is how to create a simple pinch bail and solder it into the jump
and then set the stone.

Each project and step is measured to learn one or two new procedures
and practice one or two previously learned. These projects normally
take about 3 to 4 weeks after which students are encouraged to create
an original pendant with a bezel mounted stone for more practice at
the macro level.

I see no use in a basic jewelry course for making box clasps, chains
or utensils. The first is useless until the student learns to make
the second or to bead while the last is too time consuming,
repetitious, and limits one’s imagination! I have the same problem
with the ‘found object’ concept…not in the longer range of study,
but in basic through intermediate courses. I believe in moving
students through a series of broadning projects quickly with plenty
of hands on exercises, demonstrations, short lectures and lots of
’this is why it should be done this way or that’ explanations.

Sorry for the soap box input but I get too many students who say
they took this course or that at this college or that but they cannot
do a simple project on their own. Such a waste of time and effort.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Thank you Don,

I have taken several beginners course over the past years. I had
become quite frustrated because I had excellent individual skills but
seemed incapable of completing a project. I did not have the full
complement of skills needed to plan, implement and complete an entire
project. I am now taking a beginners course at MICA. Maryland
Institute Collage of Art. This course almost exactly follows your
outline, the projects are different but the skills are not. I am
well on my way to completing my third project in just 5 weeks…Yeah
I know at this pace I would starve as a professional but as Rome
wasn’t built in a day…Seriously I must say that emphasis on order
of operations and planning ones finishing from the beginning is very
important. This course is 14 weeks long, which also seems ideal.
There is time for demonstration, practice, critique and
refinement…absolutely critical when the simple tweaking of one
posture can make the difference between gouged or filed…completed
or finished. I am constantly amazed by the generous sharing of
in this fabulous community…Orchid Rules!!!


Its been a long time since my college days, but there are some
things here that strike a chord. I don’t think useless projects and
incompetent professors are limited to jewelry arts, for one thing.
Having had the experience of talking to some of the
professors/instuctors at a local community college (in our store as
customers), I have to wonder sometimes what qualifies one to teach.
A person giving a seminar on selling techniques in my early days in
the trade told us that knowing just one more thing than the customer
makes one an ‘expert’ in the customers eyes. Coupling that with an
air of confidence, and you can convince nearly anyone that you know a
lot more than you do, unless of course, they really know it better
than you. Is this theory now applied to teaching? I think when my
kids are ready for that final step of education, I will try to steer
them to an appopriate trade school, rather than a college with
specialty courses. At least I will try to heavily research the
subject with and for them. I would have much more faith that they
would learn really useful stuff from places with hands on, shorter
duration courses that are designed to get them up and working for a
living, and successfully, in less than 4 or more years. Jim

    than you.  Is this theory now applied to teaching? I think
when my kids are ready for that final step of education, I will try
to steer them to an appopriate trade school, rather than a college
with specialty courses. 

Hi Jim;

I’ve seen it in both worlds. In the academic world, there are many
teaching jewelry courses who have very low skill levels and expertise
beyond the making of their own style of work. But I’ve seen
graduates of some of the touted jewelry trade schools who, in my
opinion, clearly wasted their time and money. I wouldn’t have
considered them more than raw beginners after they “graduated” from
these programs. What you need to do is locate the professionals in
the field (whatever field) who are doing work that you think
represents where you want to go, and query them as to who they
studied with and where.

David L. Huffman

I have to wonder sometimes what qualifies one to teach. 

I have a friend who says: If you look like you know what you are
doing, and you act like you know what you are doing, then everyone
will think you know what you are doing. In the work force this will
get you the job…not keep it. In the case of teachers, too many are
able to pull this off for too long… Sometimes they get tenure. The
ones that lose are the students.

The good teachers out there can inspire and teach beyond the
imagination, the bad ones can crush dreams…It takes more than just
academics to be a good teacher.


Rene, Good for you!! Sounds like you are on the correct path to
becoming a true artisan. Keep at it…I know all Orchidians will
support you.

What area of MD are you in? I lived many years in the
Annapolis/Baltimore area. Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle
Studio in SOFL where simple elegance IS fine jewelry!

Jim…you make good points. While my late grandmother, who came
from Germany in the early 1900’s, used to ask me what I did for a
living (she did that everytime I saw her), I would say, “Grandma, I
work for the Government”. She would think for a minute, scowl and
retort, "Thats ok for making a living but what trade can you do?"
She believed a trade was essential to ensuring one’s livelyhood.

Unfortunately, ovedr the past 40 years or so, trade schools have
lost the emphasis they once had. Now everyone has to go to college
for academics. In HS, I had four years of metal shop, wood shop,
mechanical drawing, and shop math. In the end, I got my university
degree in political science and international relations. But, I
never forgot the practical trade skills I learned and they have given
me more security and return than all the academics I ever studied! I
wish we could get back to those basics! I also believe a lot of the
’specialists’ out there have learned this lesson
following the great layoffs over the past few years.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Jim, I read your post with much interest as I have just setup a
small jewelry program at a gallery here in Asheville. I am always
asking myself what qualifies me to think that I can “teach” someone
something much less something in the jewelry/metal arts. I too have
seen many land in academia because they can’t make it in the real
world. In the arts, these people tend to be hired as “Critics”. My
personal windmill is the architectural establishment.

Many of the best instructors in the business today are a part of
Orchid. I hope they will chime in with some insights.

I keep in mind that the main thing I do is provide entertainment and
a means for one to explore their creativity. I am in no way trying
to “train” future bench jewelers or artists. That will happen
inspite of myself in a few rare cases.

I remember one of my professors telling our class," I don’t care if
you learn the material. I do care that you learn how to think, do
good research, and combine both to solve problems." I still live the
adventure he set before us. As to what makes a good “teacher,” part
of the answer may lie in what he told us.

Just a few thoughts on the subject.


Unfortunately, ovedr the past 40 years or so, trade schools  have
lost the emphasis they once had. " 

i have wondered whether more children would stay in school if they
were given the opportunity to take classes that really interested
them. not everyone should go to college, but everyone should be
educated to take advantage of their potential.

jean adkins

Wow Don, you sure hit a sore spot with me on this one. Then again,
I’m probably the one you’ve heard complain loudest, too. Here is a
rundown of my current experience:

I am currently enrolled (at a local college) in an 8-week (one
3-hour class per week) “Jewelry Manufacturing” class. Basically, it
is an instructional course in the art of lost-wax casting. What
follows is a run-down of the first few weeks of “instruction”. Bear
in mind that each class has several “return students” who take this
class every semester because they don’t have their own casting
equipment and consider the $85US tuition to be cheaper than having a
professional do their casting.

The first night: The “lead instructor” showed the class how to make
3 tools by hammering two pieces of brass welding stock into having a
flat end, then gluing them, along with a tapestry needle into a
small, wooden dowel. A list of local jeweler’s tool suppliers was
provided for us to purchase any other tools we might need, as well
as other supplies. After that first night, this "lead instructor"
taught nothing else…his time is now spent with the torch, melting
and casting for the students. Yes, that’s right…FOR the students.
It seems that, if a student REALLY wants to do his/her own casting,
it may be allowed…but it is quite frowned upon for liability

The second week: Our “wax packages” were passed out. About $3US
worth of wax wire and sheet. Ring tubes are also available, but only
if we get to the point of needing it for a project. The second
"instructor" arrived an hour after class start and began showing us
how to make little dots with the wax wire onto sheet wax. Then, she
showed us how to make an “S” shape out of wire, tack it to the
sheet, and build it up by depositing more wax on it. Clever, eh?
(note deep sarcasm here). Fortunately for me, I’ve read volumes
about wax modeling and casting for a long time and have my first
piece ready to invest for the next week’s casting. All others in my
class are still clueless.

The third week: One “new student” has dropped out. The second
"instructor" arrived an hour after class again. By this time, I
begin to realize that SHE will be providing the basic instruction,
not the so-called “LEAD instructor”. My first piece is cast. It is a
bezel setting for a pietersite I’ve had plans for, just never got
around to fabricating. You can see it at if you like. The
first week, I had asked her (the “instructor”) about shrinkage, and
was told that it wouldn’t be enough to worry about. Of course, the
piece did shrink too much and, after much filing of the setting and
some recutting of the stone, the piece is nearly finished.

The fourth week: Again, the “instructor” arrives an hour after class
start time. I ask her why she is robbing her students of 1/3 of our
tuition. She replies, and I quote, “They don’t pay me enough here to
leave my other job an hour early”. I am aghast! The other "new"
students within earshot can’t believe it, either. There was no
reasoning with this woman after that, as everything discussed after
was unreasonable. So, I cast my next piece and got to work finishing
it. Now, the writing is on the wall; this is more of a “We Love Our
Friends who Already Know Enough About Lost Wax Casting So That We
Can Get Down To Our Own Business While They Go About Theirs and Hope
We Don’t Have Any Of Those Annoying New Students Who Need To Be
Shown What To Do” Club, as opposed to a Jewelry Manufacturing class.
Meanwhile, I have cast my second piece and turned in my third to be
cast next week. The “instructor” decides to put us all on the
project of making an “initial ring”. One student asks “What if we
don’t want to make an initial ring”? The “instructor’s” reply: “This
is MY class, so you’ll make an initial ring…but you don’t HAVE to
cast it if you don’t want to”. She apologizes to me at the end of
class for “going off on me” when I asked why she couldn’t be on
time…she said she had a bad day.

The fifth week: By now, we are all resigned to the fact that we have
lost 1/3 of our money (or at least I have…nobody else, besides a
friend who rides with me to class seems to have a problem with
this). My friend casts her first piece, a triangular piece of sheet
wax with some little dots, the letter “S” and some pieces of wire
fused to it. Nobody else has cast a thing, except me…a 10K cap for
a nice boulder opal…

The sixth week: Two other students cast small pieces, I cast another
and filed away on my initial ring. I put on a good face in the
interest of fostering amity in the classroom. The “instructor” has
kept herself busy by giving each classmate individual tips on how to
"dress up" their initial rings.

The seventh week: I cast another piece in 14k this time, figuring on
getting as much done for my money as possible in the short time
left. A ring I carved in my spare time. It needs work before
display. One other “new student” casts a second piece. The
"instructor" continues giving tips on the initial rings (I guess she
finally found a way to keep us occupied with SOME form of
instruction). I left early for the Florida Gold Coast Gem and
Mineral Society’s monthly meeting (don’t forget our sale coming up
in December!!). I turn in my last piece to be cast next week,
another ring, this time in SS.

This Wednesday, the eighth week, is our last week of “instruction”.
The “return students” asked about the class party, but the “lead
instructor” says that the school doesn’t allow them anymore. Then,
he said “ah, have a party if you want to”. I’m fairly certain that
I’ll just want to cast my last piece, then leave.

People of Orchid and The World: With 20 years of military service
(no, I’m not comparing the military to civilian life here) I have
been taught by dozens of instructors. I also served a 4-year
special-duty tour AS an instructor for Air Traffic Control RADAR
Systems Technology. Some of the instructors of my acquaintance were
good, some were bad, and some were the finest I’ve ever known. We
even had one really awful civilian instructor during my tour who
maintained a class average of over 98 percent by giving the class
leader his lesson plan, which was clearly marked with the test
material. But, until I met this woman, I have never known one to
cheat a student out of their due because “they don’t pay me enough”.

People of South Florida: If you are considering taking the Jewelry
Manufacturing class at Nova, reconsider. Unless you already know
what you’re doing, and only need a (relatively) cheap way to cast
one piece a week (the class limits students to one per week), then
don’t bother.

The other “instructional” experience I’ve had also happened down
here. A few years ago, a friend put me on to a young lady who would
teach me fabrication for $20US/hour (about a block or two from
where the rock and gem club meets, btw). The first day was okay,
with one other fellow there, as well. Things went well that day, and
I made a simple bezel setting. The next day was to be a one-on-one
session for $30/hour. She asked if I wouldn’t mind if her friend sat
in, because this girl already knew what she was doing and wouldn’t
bother us. Being the nice guy I am, I said “sure, I don’t mind”. The
rest of that day, I spent mostly listening to the "instructor"
talking to her girlfriend about this millionaire guy she had a date
with, who has a millionaire friend that her friend should date, as
well. Also, the advice the instructor had for the girl about
depletion gilding the bracelet she was working on while my 14k gold
bezel melted while I was trying to anneal it. Fortunately, it wasn’t
an institution that required the tuition up front, and I kept my

Now, for the positive side of things. I know there ARE legitimate
schools with conscientious instructors who really do care about what
they do. Most of them are quite well-known and many of them are
mentioned quite often in this forum. My reason for writing this
lengthy message is NOT to disparage teachers, instructors or
learning institutions of our trade, but if I can save one person the
disappointment that Nova has to offer, I feel I may have made a

Most of what I know about cabbing, faceting, fabrication, casting,
etc. comes from what I’ve read in books and magazines, and the kind
advice of older, more experienced people who have been doing it for
a long time. Many of them post often to Orchid, but many of them
I’ve met at small rock and gem shows, and even flea markets. Lately,
the bulk of what I’ve learned has been from The Orchid Forum and the
kind folks at my local gem club. So, in the face of my recent
"instruction", I would like to thank ALL of the wonderful people who
post their wonderful solutions and general knowledge here.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
James S. Duncan, G.G.

I have noticed the discussion on trades (jewelry and metal
assignments). Trades are on the decline in this country, our industry
is leaving and we have a balance of trade problem whereby more money
leaves the country not to return than is taken in, this may in the
end cause a serious problem now being ignored. While other countries
train their work force our training is becoming narrower. India has
a plan to train 150,000 for the lapidary and faceting trade. Wood
and metal shop is gone in many places. In Utah in the Ogden area the
only place is the applied technology center, for metal. Problem is
this is not a metal shop per say. It used to be if you were an adult
you could take a night course, learn something and make something.
There you can not work on a project. More troubling is that
according to a program on NBC training programs as a whole have less
than 20% of graduates at the end of 2 years actually working in a job
having anything to do with the training.

As said it used to be you could take a shop class, here they have
been eliminated from high schools, or from night schools. Say you
downloaded the plans for a faceting machine from the gearloose site,
if you do not own your own tools you can not build any part of it.
Likewise there are no classes to train in anything related to jewelry
here. In some other areas (not in Utah) classes can be had at a
community college. If you want to learn any part of cabinetwork
etc., etc, you must wait until you are out of school, and take it at
Valley Community College or such. Then maybe you can become an
apprentice afterward. Such classes no doubt will be phased out, as
it is no longer Utah Tech, as it was once. Most of what was once is
gone already.

Contrast this situation to Germany where things like that are taught
to the young in schools and there are apprenticeship programs. In
Germany you can become educated in the jewelry business when young
and become employed in it when leaving school as an apprentice and go
on to become a professional. Here you must educate yourself and/or
take courses on your own (in spite of a labor department report that
there are less qualified people than opportunities, and this dose not
mean a job at a mall store either.) This path is a much harder road
to travel, although it can be done. We are to a startling degree
robbing ourselves and of course children of opportunities.

I think if we continue to slide from making anything in this
country, in favor of a servant economy, and continue to import all
manufactured goods and only export raw material at some point our
consumer economy will collapse. As more people will not have the
necessary funds to afford anything at some point, this will ripple

As for education in general, I posted a condensed version of
Learning to Read in Eight Weeks to a list, this was a program
developed by the army in WW II when inducting large numbers of
illiterates and/or non English speaking men into the armed forces was
necessary. The program was over 90% effective, and most of this in
eight weeks. In the year 1949 the overall illiteracy rate for all
people over the age of 14 was lower than it is now for high school
graduates. Hence I believe that many things they now want two years
of extra education for, is on the account of people now lacking
skills once taken for granted that even dropouts would have. The
way to fix this is not to dummy up things to make what appears to be
progress when there is none, and a whole host of more than
questionable experiments when it is clear that those with such
schemes as a class are responsible for the mess.

We have taken what has proven itself and have discarded it. Remember
before we had all these classes for hyperactive, etc., etc, things
actually worked better and so did education. Now we are drugging an
ever larger percent of children and wonder why they are doing "drugs"
by the tine they reach high school. One also wonders if we are not
creating problems simply for the sake of a chemical babysitter,
remember that this is new and remember the type of results we now get
are also. Clearly based on results only we have taken a wrong path,
especially when effective and proven measures now out of favor have
proven it so. They worked, what we have now dose not.

Meanwhile teaching a trade has gone by the wayside and with it any
idea of quality on the part of an ever-increasing number of the
population. They have been “educated” that throwaway cheap goods are
just as good as quality ones and do not know the difference, mostly
by that great pacifier, the boob tube. I hope this is not considered
as to long, but I believe the following will prove the point. The
original article was Literacy and Illiteracy; it is mostly unchanged,
although condensed. Notice how this got results and compare it to
the present situation. I believe that the discarding of trade and
shop classes are as poisonous in the long run to society as the
discarding of proven methods have already proven to be for general

Learning to Read in Eight weeks

From the American Peoples Encyclopedia � 1952

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2.7 per cent of the
total population above the age of 14 were illiterate in 1947. The
rural farm rate was 5.3; the urban rate was 2.0 per cent. This
included a large immigration into the states that followed the Second
World War. According to the Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah), a paper
I no longer will take, functional illiterate collage students are now
several times this rate.

Illiteracy is primarily due to the lack of adequate elementary
education. Although free public elementary schools are found in every
state, the substandard character of many of these schools, and the
laxity which standards are enforced in many communities, contribute
to ignorance and waste of manpower, which affected 1,704,000 men in
the American armed forces in World War II. Rejected at first,
illiterates were later accepted and given an elementary education
while in Army training.

Accelerated Learning Program in the United States Army

In order to satisfy the need for manpower in the United States armed
forces during World War II, it became necessary to induct large
numbers of illiterate and non English-speaking men. By applying
established principles of education, the Army seceded in developing
an amazingly efficient program of education, a program that enabled
the average illiterate or non-English speaking man to acquire basic
academic skills in eight weeks time. Statistics on the reception
centers where the special training units were operated show that well
over 90 per cent of the men seceded in reaching acceptable standards
with this course alone. Most in eight weeks!

Origin of Special Training Unit Men

Most of the men assigned to the special training units came from
sections of the country where schools were inadequate. Others came
from the border and coastal states, where immigrant groups sometimes
managed to get by using a very limited amount of English. “*In one
Texas unit 95 per cent of the trainees were non-English speaking men
of Spanish or Mexican background, some of these men had been by faced
family needs which made them leave school early. Still others had
learned little during their years in school.”

Learning to Read in Eight Weeks

Tests were employed to classify the men in one of four groups at the
beginning of the training cycle. If a trainee started at the first
level, he ordinarily finished the program in eight weeks. The men had
to be able to reach critical scores on tests of reading, arithmetic,
and language ability before leaving a unit. The maximum effectiveness
of the instructional material was assured by using them in small
classes. The average class contained 12 to 15 men. In classes of this
size, errors and faulty habits could be corrected at the onset and
guidance and encouragement could be offered according to the varied
needs within every group.

Outstanding results secured in special training units suggest that
illiteracy need not continue to be a great social problem in
America. Giving educational opportunity to every boy and girl in
America can eliminate it. Meanwhile much can be accomplished along
this line by extending educational opportunities to adult levels and
by applying the method which proved so successful in the United
States Army during the second world war.

Postscript: Some of the men, in fact a surprising number, were to go
on later and take advantage of the GI Bill and achieve advanced
education. This included everything from trade school to advanced
college degrees.

I think it’s very important to spend time becoming proficient with
the jewelers saw. I’ve seen it kind of glossed over in classes I’ve
taken, sure it’s frustrating for a while, but a really necessary
skill to have.When I was an apprentice it was my first and only
priority for several lessons. (Lesson 1, cut Lincoln out of a penny
with an 8/0 sawblade) I have a very experienced and talented jeweler
friend who was trained in Jamaica and Europe and to my surprise used
the saw for only the most rough cutting. I didn’t mind at all doing
his fine piercing work.

While on the subject of schools, classes, etc…

Does anyone have any experience with Stewart’s International School
for Jewelers? I’m considering taking their repair course in early
2004. I have a lot of experience fabricating my own designs, but I’m
now looking at becoming a bench type jeweler as well and I’ve felt
lacking in basic repair and mostly turned away this type of work in
the past.

Barb Baur