Saturday, February 20, 2010

rapidly losing skills

Americans were once known as rugged individualists, for our pioneer spirit, of can-do problem solving, and I suspect that for most, those days have passed. Today I heard a radio interview with Idaho author, Cort Conley who wrote a book about Idaho Loners; Hermits, Solitaires, and Individualists and his conclusions are roughly the same as mine. We are losing much of our creative capacity and those problem solving skills that allowed pioneers to enter the wilderness and create lives for themselves. Kids today would last about as long as the battery on an iPhone when it comes to survival.

There are other very simple things being lost. Did you ever play with blocks, and did you learn something from the experience? Kids, left to themselves can take hours of delight in building things up and equal delight in knocking them down, only to build again. Do you think they do that sort of thing for no reason what-so-ever? Or do you think that there is some particular method to the madness? It is called learning through play.

Cort Conley and many of the old timers of Idaho seem to agree. We have put our national and personal survival at grave peril, by neglecting the hands-on skills that were required to build our nation. Conley suggests that if things were to fall apart, and you were looking for survivors (not the made for TV entertainment kind) you would find them in the diminishing wilds of Idaho. Conley told that many attribute our victory in WWII to the ability of GI's to fix things, to keep the tanks and trucks rolling and on the roads through Yankee ingenuity. He's worried that we've lost that. We take the kids out of the wild and structure their playtime to keep them from trouble and we eliminate their potential for growth. Duh.


  1. Anonymous6:09 AM

    The saddest part is that it's so simple to encourage kids to learn how to build, how to cook and to know where food comes from.


  2. And these are the things that tend to be the most fun to teach. My daughter after leaving home for college rediscovered cooking (which she never liked at home) and gardening (which we had done together when she was 4 or 5) Now when she is home we enjoy cooking together, and at school, in the middle of Manhattan, she and a small group of organic gardeners have a small plot. Both provide a necessary balance to the rigors of academics. Why is this so hard for some to understand?

  3. Anonymous11:36 AM

    ...And we over-baby-proof our homes, pad our playgrounds (what's left of them), over-praise, and under-estimate... Ever heard of the term problem-solving deficit disorder? I see it manifested in my young students every day. :(

  4. Yes, let me do that for you.