We went to the open house at our neighborhood middle school last night. I was surprised to learn that up until a two years ago they had offered shop class. Then the teacher retired. They have looked for two years for someone to fill the position and haven't had a qualified applicant.
It reminded me very much of this:
Which reminded me of the guy we hired to restore our old house's windows to working order. We had to book nearly a year in advance, agree to have our windows removed during December, and pay thousands of dollars to have 10 windows restored. The guy who fixed them? He died this year.
Which made me think about the book I'm reading -- World War Z -- in which everything gets tossed upside down and the only people who really have any value are the "dirty jobs" type guys. They become the teachers and bosses.
Which made me think of this:
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." – Albert Einstein
When will knowing how to fix useful things, or make useful things, become a lost art? Will anything be worth fixing anymore? Will everything be disposable?
When will knowing how to fix useful things, or make useful things, become a lost art?
A good question.
It may come down to access. If you have access to cheap replacement parts or if it's cheaper just to replace the whole item then why repair it. When you don't have access then it becomes a necessity to fix it. There was a recent story about the industry in Cuba that has built up to manufacture replacement parts for the automobiles there that are left over from before the revolution. With no ability to replace the cars, they have to repair them without manufacturer parts.
That's very interesting, about Cuba. I remember a NatGeo article many years ago about the great old American car population of Cuba.
Googling "cars in Cuba" turns up some terrific results:
I was watching "American Pickers" not long ago and they stopped at some house in the middle of nowhere where this older man had a full machine shop where he could make just about anything. I doubt that there are many of those around anymore.
I live in an area where the trades are very well respected, well paid and trained. I live just down the block from the second largest trade school in alberta and it hasn't stopped expanding since I moved here, with no end in site. The waiting lists for enrollment are also long, thus the endless expansions. The average program is two years or 4 year apprenticeship, and by some world standards, that's light. I believe in Germany some trades apprentice for 7 years and like England, most start at the age of 16.
The trades are in no way dying. Although, they do tend to go where the jobs are, or follow the money and the respect. In areas where manufacturing has dried up, so has the work and so the qualified people hit the road. Canada is filled with immigrant trades people, and we're grateful for them.
Mind you, so many things are specialized. It's hard finding the experts in the field, or the parts when they are scarce to none-existent. Try repairing a broken iPod... Some things are meant to be disposable, they are built that way.
Oh for sure things are made to be unfixable. It's really pretty crazy.
Here trade schools are looked at as places for those who couldn't cut it in academia. Blue collar ambitions are kind of frowned upon. Also, a lot of the schools are scams.
Thu 23 Feb, 2012 11:45 am
I, too, think that trades are dying out. (The apprenticeship in Germany usually is three years.) Actually, quite a lot of old, nearly forgotten trades are coming back again. And businesses/people offering "we repair everything" are to be found even in smallest towns.
The biggest difference today is so much of the work people do is computer related. To soup up your car used to be changing the carburetor, and boring out pistons. Nowadays, it's programming and changing out the computer chip
I'm not surprised at all. Mr. B can build and fix almost anything but he often uses the internet for help on more technical matters. We're pretty dedicated do it yourselfers.
A lot of things do rely on computers these days. That's a big drawback for people who like to tinker.
Speaking of tinkering....
When we were in Texas last summer we learned about the Austin Tinkering School (http://austintinkeringschool.com/). This might be the future of shop class.
Thu 23 Feb, 2012 01:25 pm
In our dual education system (apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school), which we've got here in Germany since the 1890's, we've got today only a bit more than 400 different apprenticeship occupations.
Many of the "new old" trades have to learnt in 'learning by doing'. However, some even get new classes at vocational schools. (My father-in-law was one of the latest to have a full apprenticeship as a 'sword finisher' ["Schwertfeger"] in the 1930's - all the dozen different trades related to knife-making became 'knife smiths' later. But nowadays, some are revived .... because you need specialists.)
Thu 23 Feb, 2012 02:42 pm
One of my favourite sites, I'm on it weekly trying to figure out how to do something, or awed by the creative nature of others. Check out the homemade CNC machines. http://www.instructables.com/
Some trades people up here make more than doctors and lawyers.. This is a well off blue collar town. My highschool was a composite . Some kids took trades as their elective and I believe it was also semestered, where kids could spend half of the year just studying their trade, had I followed that route - I'd be doing well financially....
Thu 23 Feb, 2012 03:09 pm
Boomerang and I know a fascinating book about all this (I was raving about it somewhere on a2k about a month ago).
I highly recommend it. I went back and forth on the author, mostly in agreement, but while I was doing that learned a lot.
Shop Class as Soulcraft, An Inquiry into the Value of Work
Matthew B. Crawford