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I coached high school basketball during the 90s. During that time I had many conversations with high school teachers, one of them had to do with the gradual elimination of shop classes. The big reason I heard was that, by eliminating shop classes, students could choose only “academic” courses and this elevated the scores and ratings of local high schools. Some of the high school teachers were dead-set against the elimination of shop classes. This recent NY Times deserves discussion here at the Jesus Creed blog — what are the implications of no shop classes? What are students “not” learning? What is impact on society and neighborhoods and families?

Shop.jpgFrom the NYTimes (not from SMcKnight):

The television show “Deadliest Catch”
depicts commercial crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. Another, “Dirty
Jobs,” shows all kinds of grueling work; one episode featured a guy who
inseminates turkeys for a living. The weird fascination of these shows
must lie partly in the fact that such confrontations with material
reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that
feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it
difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts. What exactly
have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of
cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience
of individual agency can be elusive. “Dilbert,” “The Office” and
similar portrayals of cubicle life attest to the dark absurdism with
which many Americans have come to view their white-collar jobs.

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Is there a more “real” alternative (short of inseminating turkeys)?

High-school
shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators
prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the
last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then
to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow
take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information
economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often
feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever,
somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets,
build our houses.

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