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The (nonTrump) Apprentice

 
 
Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 09:05 am
I read a profile the other day about a local luthier master-craftsman. His guitar prices start at $11,000 and he has a 15 year waiting list for instruments.

A few months back the paper profiled a local milliner. I can't find the article so I can't tell you what her prices are or how long her waiting list is but I assure you her hats were prized.

Neither of these articles really told about how the person learned their skill and this started me thinking about apprentices.

It seems that you really only hear the word when it comes to food -- Soandso apprenticed under Chef Blahblah in (insert foreign country).

I suppose you could argue that the family on "American Chopper" is an active apprenticeship between the father and sons. But does going into the family business really count as an apprenticeship?

I want to be clear that I don't mean mentorship or "showing the ropes" or "taking under your wing" but a relationship between student and teacher that spans decades and is devoted to passing along knowledge that can't be found in books.

Is the master (?) - apprentice relationship viable in the 21st century where most things are mass produced, machine made, disposable goods and where most people aren't willing to toil in obscurity for decades to learn a skill?

What do you think?
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sozobe
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 09:17 am
In the (really good!) book "Dreamtimes and Lifetimes," Sharon Traweek makes a convincing case that physics is one of the last remaining carryovers of the apprentice tradition. From what I've observed I think she's right.

E.G. was an "apprentice" to a series of masters who remain major figures in his life.
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boomerang
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 09:26 am
Oh interesting, soz!

Physics. That adds a cool twist to my thoughts because I was thinking of things crafted. I'll have to ponder that a bit.

Is it possible to give a quick rundown on why physics?
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sozobe
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 10:16 am
Where'd I put that damn book...?

I think E.G. has it in his office.

I'd have to re-read it to say anything really coherent. But what I remember is that it hews really closely to the master/ apprentice model. Physics is more than just numbers/ facts, it's a way of thinking, and there are different flavors of that. You can tell who wrote a paper not just by the content but by the flavor. There are "families" of physicists, various (unrelated) people who were all apprentices (grad students, postdocs) to the same professor and who therefore have a family resemblance in their work.

I'll have to try to get my hands on the book again to say something more definite though. It was one of the central theses of the book, and she laid it out really well.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 10:28 am
It's "Beamtimes and Lifetimes," btw not "Dreamtimes..."
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fishin
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 10:43 am
Re: The (nonTrump) Apprentice
boomerang wrote:

It seems that you really only hear the word when it comes to food -- Soandso apprenticed under Chef Blahblah in (insert foreign country).


I guess that depends on what sort of things you read or pay attention to. Most of the building trades have and still do require an apprenticeship (electricians, plumbers, etc...).

Quote:
I suppose you could argue that the family on "American Chopper" is an active apprenticeship between the father and sons. But does going into the family business really count as an apprenticeship?


Why not? How many "Father & Son" businesses have there been over the centuries. I don't know how their relationship works in this regard though. Dad seems to learn as much from the kids as they do from him.

Quote:
I want to be clear that I don't mean mentorship or "showing the ropes" or "taking under your wing" but a relationship between student and teacher that spans decades and is devoted to passing along knowledge that can't be found in books.

Is the master (?) - apprentice relationship viable in the 21st century where most things are mass produced, machine made, disposable goods and where most people aren't willing to toil in obscurity for decades to learn a skill?


I think the dynamic of the relationship has changed. In an earlier age it was often assumed that the apprentice would take over the business when the master was no longer able or willing to run it. In many cases now the master is just seen as someone who can punch your ticket and the apprentice is just so much cheap labor. Some of that probably relates to industrialization (where the master doesn't necessarily own the business) and to the general overall change in labor where people don't expect to stick with one employer for their lifetime.
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Noddy24
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 01:23 pm
The Western trend to small families, mothers working outside the home and mobile America has made "apprenticing" for parenthood very difficult.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 02:13 pm
Oh, good point.
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boomerang
 
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Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 05:09 pm
That IS interesting, soz. Thought flavors. I like that. I'm not sure I really get it, but I like it!

But is an apprenticeship in the trades really an apprenticeship, fishin'? Isn't it more often just extended on the job training? I could envision it with carpentry more than the other trades like wiring or plumbing simply because it is not all function. Does that make sense?

More food for thought there.

And I can make another meal of the idea of parenting apprenticeships. Do you mean learning at your mother's elbow - learning how to be a parent by being parented or am I missing something?

There was a series of articles in our newspaper not long ago where they asked graduating high school students and recent graduates what they wish their school taught. The biggest responses were what, for lack of a better word, I'll call home-making skills -- how to manage a checkbook and credit card, how to cook a meal, how to mend clothing, basic car and home repairs, that sort of thing.

I thought that was kind of funny because those were things I mostly learned at home. However, I do still fondly recall my 8th grade civics teacher, Mr. Alexander, who taught us how to do out taxes and how to vote.

BTW - the second highest ranking response was for classes in oral communication. It seems that our computer aided youngsters were having trouble with job interviews, etc.
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