Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John Grossbohlin sent an article from the Wall St. Journal about the huge shortage of skilled workers in the US, and the shortage of employment for those who've earned college degrees. Part of the article is about Mike Rowe, host of the TV program "Dirty Jobs". He is being recruited by companies desperate to give a sense of pride to those who they would like to recruit. When I think of these programs and their popularity I am reminded of Joe Barry's sign on his wall that states, "I love work. I could sit here and watch it all day."

Otto Salomon's Educational Sloyd was particularly concerned with instilling pride in all work. His plan was that all social classes be given the opportunity to learn hand skills. It was a means of dissolving the social barriers that restrained the intellectual elite from reaching their own heights of intelligence and simultaneously isolated them from an understanding of the depth and value of the contributions made by others.

I woke up this morning thinking of babies and bath water, and what happens when new products arrive in a society and strip away the cultural values inherent in indigenous crafts. You can think of native crafts, like Hemsloyd in Sweden, as being the bulwark against cultural collapse. A novel by historian John Neihart, When the Tree Flowered was about the plains Indians in the days before the whites arrived, and it well illustrated the role of crafts in the imparting of cultural values.

So as we so nobly but blindly interject our wonderful products into the third world through programs similar to the One Laptop per Child movement, I wonder, can we put programs in place that simultaneously sustain the cultural values that have been hanging on by a thread? The following photo shows the other side of the issue. Native crafts sustain cultural values and meaningful relationships as skills and love are imparted, transferred between generations.

1 comment:

  1. This does not surprise me. My education is from a technical school. I later served on an advisory board there. The mantra there was skilled jobs were abundant and pay well, and workers would become ever harder to find. The Provost predicted more growth in jobs that required technical training into the first quarter of this century. Your article seems to be validating what they have been saying for a long time.