Over the last two decades, as public schools have become serious at measuring rather than providing for student success, they began dropping their woodworking programs as extraneous. Wood shop was no longer relevant. We had become a nation of sellers and consumers. We were taking a shellacking in industrial productivity in comparison to lesser nations and it was judged reasonable for us to surrender our industrial edge to countries where intelligent labor could be gotten at less cost. We, in turn, were to be a "service economy" in an "information age" and manufacturing was no longer a matter of our strategic concern. Besides, the skills and character that are acquired and expressed through the intelligent acts of making real things, don’t fit neatly on bubble tests, and are thus too hard to measure in a school culture obsessed with measurable "standards". Skill and integrity expressed in the making of real things won't fit neatly on spread sheets.
In the meantime, many of the finest independent schools in America have maintained their woodworking programs, and wouldn’t give them up for the world. Can it be that they know a few things that have been largely forgotten in public education?
This year, with high unemployment, it seems that 85% of new college graduates are headed home to live with Mom and Dad, while jobs in industry requiring engineering degrees and some technical skills are going unfilled. How can they hire someone for complex technical operations if they can’t read a tape measure, or drawing or do the most simple of calculations? If you've never made anything in your life and think that google.com is the answer to all your problem solving concerns, to industry you need not apply.
Fareed Zacharia on CNN has a program on how to restore our American innovative edge. It just might be worth watching. If we are not a nation of makers, please don't expect us to be a nation of innovative idea makers, either. Here is a bit from Zacharia that you might be hoping for:
...if we are to get the U.S. back to work, we need perhaps even more urgently to rebuild American education, reform our training system, revive high-end manufacturing, focus on new growth industries and rebuild our infrastructure.Today in my wood shop, I will be doing materials preparation to be ready to make small cabinets for a class with the Kansas City Woodworker’s Guild, June 17 and for the filming of my DVD Building Small Cabinets which will take place the following week in my wood shop. There is a lot of prep work to do in a short period of time. If I'm not here blogging, assume I'm busy in the wood shop. Go ahead on your own...
Make, fix and create, as though our human culture and national success depend upon it. (they do)