Saturday, September 19, 2015

why we've always needed shop classes...

This article from Forbes spells things out pretty well. Why We Desperately Need to Bring Back Vocational Training in Schools.

The history was thus: In the 50's high schools began sorting students into vocational and college tracks. Why waste history, Latin and physics and higher math on someone who would rise no higher than an auto mechanic. And why waste technical learning on someone who would go to college and rise above the need to ever lift a finger? Minorities and the poor soon realized that the vocational track was being used as a way to wrongfully sustain an offensive class structure. So the decision was later made that all students would be pushed onto an academic track, and shop programs were allowed to die a thousand deaths, as shop teachers retired, or were pushed aside. In the meantime, shop programs had become a dumping ground for those students who for various reasons could not or would not compete in academic subjects, and the number of high school dropouts soared, as students found themselves stuck in classes that were painfully boring and of no direct interest in their own lives.

What had been forgotten were the ideas that had been promoted by Educational Sloyd: that both character and intellect, as well as a heightened level of personal engagement came through the crafting of useful beauty. So they killed shop programs all across the US and we've become burdened  by an incredible waste of educational resources.

The article states American educational stupidity in a nutshell:
So what’s the harm in prepping kids for college? Won’t all students benefit from a high-level, four-year academic degree program? As it turns out, not really. For one thing, people have a huge and diverse range of different skills and learning styles. Not everyone is good at math, biology, history and other traditional subjects that characterize college-level work. Not everyone is fascinated by Greek mythology, or enamored with Victorian literature, or enraptured by classical music. Some students are mechanical; others are artistic. Some focus best in a lecture hall or classroom; still others learn best by doing, and would thrive in the studio, workshop or shop floor.

And not everyone goes to college. The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that about 68% of high school students attend college. That means over 30% graduate with neither academic nor job skills.

But even the 68% aren’t doing so well. Almost 40% of students who begin four-year college programs don’t complete them, which translates into a whole lot of wasted time, wasted money, and burdensome student loan debt. Of those who do finish college, one-third or more will end up in jobs they could have had without a four-year degree. The BLS found that 37% of currently employed college grads are doing work for which only a high school degree is required.
In my shop I've continued to edit the text for chapters in my tiny boxes book, and am at work on writing the text for the last projects.

In the meantime, there is a growing recognition that college should be free, and that those who are burdened by debt from the attendance of college should have that burden lifted. Would it not be even better that all vocational training and continuing education be made free? It's the side of education that we have now neglected for more than a generation.

Thanks Steve for the link.

Make, fix, create, and help others to learn likewise.


  1. By the way, I shared this blog post on Facebook and got many positive responses from friends who work in education.


  2. Mario, thanks for helping to promote the blog.