Friday, March 02, 2012


A shop teacher in South Carolina wrote to ask if I knew of some way to help. His program is being eliminated. I had hoped that we were at an end of such foolishness. If you read the Wall St. Journal, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, or the Washington Post, you would know that the US faces a serious shortage of skilled labor. Jobs calling for integrated skills of hand, mind, and eye, are going unfilled even as our nation still wrestles with serious unemployment problems. Students are accumulating huge debts from college and then graduating to find no jobs waiting for those who do not have practical skills.

Here is the way higher education too often works. Over 30 years ago Howard Gardner described the range of our "multiple intelligences." College admission is based on just two "intelligences", mathematics and verbal skills. College success and advancement toward subsequent degrees are based primarily on verbal skills. Creative hand skills and conceptual modeling are considered unimportant to  many in the highest levels of academia. To proceed toward advanced degrees takes a further cut from the range of multiple intelligences, leaving those with verbal skills at the top of the educational hierarchy where PhDs routinely make decisions about the future of education that adversely affect all kids.

It s certainly ironic that Teachers College at Columbia University, one of our foremost universities for education was originally founded to prepare teachers of manual training in our nation's schools. These days too many administrators left untrained in the use of their own hands plan the education of others while being far less than fully engaged in own capacities and ignorant of the intelligences expressed by others. But believe it or not, the tide has turned. Now as TC prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary it is good to note that the pendulum is moving in its original direction and even administrators in South Carolina will get the message at some point. Until then...

Take matters into your own hands.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. That's a horrible feedback loop. Eventually only the paper-pushers come to control the process, serving their own interests, not the people who actually do something useful with the knowledge.

    That's like what has happened to the financial industry, where the paper-pushers have taken control at the top, and their only goals are to manipulate "value" for themselves, not caring if they are actually accomplishing anything or not. The people who need actual financial services to make their businesses run are at their mercy.

    One reason I like being a software engineer is that I'm both a thinker and a maker. I live in my head thinking about how to do something, examine abstractions at many levels, then with my fingers on the keyboard, build it and make it work. When I feel the need to create physical objects, I go all the way back to shaping wood directly with my hand tools.