“Making something well”: Willa Cather on culture and education

When asked whether in her opinion the tremendous influx of writers was a help to culture, or detrimental to it, Miss Cather said:

“I like horses better than automobiles, and I think fewer and better books would be a great improvement. I think it a great misfortune for every one to have the chance to write – to have a chance to read, for that matter: A little culture makes lazy handiwork, and handiwork is a beautiful education in itself, and something real. Good carpentry, good weaving, all the handicrafts were much sounder forms of education than what the people are getting now.

One sad feature of modem education is that the hand is so little trained among the people who have to earn their daily bread, and the head so superficially and poorly educated. The one education which amounts to anything is learning how to do something well, whether it is to make a bookcase or write a book. If I could get a carpenter to make me some good bookcases I would have as much respect for him as I have for the people whose books I want to put on them. Making something well is the principal end of education. I wish we could go back, but I am afraid we are only going to become more and more mechanical.”

– Willa Cather, Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

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One thought on ““Making something well”: Willa Cather on culture and education

  1. “Making something well…” – a good product of education. That statement is, however, daunting. How shall we know when we, like the Creator, can say “It is good” and then rest?

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