Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The following is from Met School co-founder Elliot Washor:
What a block 44th Street is in Manhattan! The Harvard Club, The Algonquin Hotel…. and right across the street at 27 W 44th Street there is a building you would pass by, not because the architecture is not eye-catching but because it is the building that houses the apparently “low brow,” General Society for Mechanics and Trades People – Technical School and Library . It is ironic that these entities are on opposite sides of the street or is it? Why are the Harvard Club and the Algonquin across the street? What really was the thinking of putting these organizations so close together? Two are the bastions of meetings where the word is the order of business and then we have an organization with the motto – “By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand.” On our way to meet my old friend Richie, Damian and I walked into this place and took a tour. To our amazement, it was a beautiful old small school with great stained glass and lots of art of people engaged in making things. Like the clubs across the street, it was still active. After I got home, I did a bit of research and found out that a free day school was established in 1820 “to provide free education for the children of the members of the Society and such other children whose parents were unable to pay.” Over 180,000 students have passed through the doors of this small school and to this day they graduate students for 2 and 3-year technical degrees in everything from plumbing to electrical to construction management all tuition free. This year their graduating class was 44 students. Not bad for sustainability and getting people from one place in life to another. Now the kicker, this school and its library were funded by Andrew Carnegie and other New Yorkers who from their own beginnings knew the power of working with your hands as well as understanding that the future of a great city hinged on the education and inventions of their young people. The takeaway is that they knew how important know-how was and perhaps choosing this location was leaving a message that the word better pay attention to the deed.

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