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Shop class; an elective in schools you rarely see nowadays, why is that? Apparently to some, teaching to work with natural elements such as woods and metals and learning about agriculture, feeds into the stigma that learning how to work with your hands whether it be for hobby of profession is seen as less than, making way for teaching the art of craftsmanship to deplete.  Jobs that have come in to dominate the livelihood of millions of men and women require degrees in technological skill sets and usually don’t require the use of brutish strength or projects that cause one’s extremities to callus over time. Looking at the current condition of our economy, you sit and wonder what can be done. Should we bring back classes that lay the foundation for vocational and trades skills?  Absolutely! Not everyone is built to sit behind a desk and carry on the duties of a nine to five. Why not introduce to students options in paths that lead to careers that they can create opportunities and revenue off of their talents and not just what they have been drilled in “brain classes” such as accounting and micro-analysis in macroeconomics while having to solve for x.

There is plenty of work just not enough skilled individuals to take on such jobs. Speaking as a native NY’er you see building after building being erected all over the city.  Both residential and commercial spaces with designs like no other being constructed at such a rate. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. You look at the men and women working and cant help but see that they are humbled and passionate enough knowing that it was their hands that built from the ground up. The blood, sweat and tears of those of labored to create the comfort of those who sit behind desks all day just to plug in data.  Matthew B. Crawford a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture writes,“the satisfaction of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretation of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car runs, the lights turn on. Boasting is what a child does, who has no effect in the world.  But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgement of reality…” One who works with their hands feel more at ease knowing that they the irrefutable proof that whatever it might have been they were working on actually works and it done well as opposed to having the stresses of meeting the expectations of a “brain job” that schools prepare students for.

For some reason as years have gone and come, shop classes have become increasingly obsolete.  According to Crawfords article “Shop Class as Soulcraft”, he makes mention that it’s easier to find and buy saw tables and electrical tools over various online stores and at a better rate than some major retailers because shop is becoming extinct and the curriculum that students are following solely prepares them for standardized testings and college.  With such pressure put on scoring high on multiple choice questions the focus is no longer on expanding a students horizon but rather meet the status quo with high percent rankings of national educational studies. With less focus on the classes that teach welding, mechanics and other trades they have been deemed less than.  As for anyone in those classes, they might be seen as not making the academic cut.

I find this very interesting as it’s those very individuals behind the scenes, creating and fixing to make the white collar professional look and feel good.  An accountant couldn’t sit in his or her suit all day while the air conditioning unit is broken, a high profile Fortune 500 company couldn’t enjoy their holiday parties without a carter,  a tech company couldn’t run if an electrician wasn’t around to see where the power short is. So why must students be taught to look down at blue collar professions? Crawford and I share the same sentiments when he wrote “ scientific managers are concerned more with the being efficient part of this formula then with the self-respecting part, yet the two are not independent”.   This is why shop classes, trade and vocational school are important and need to be brought back into the schools. Broaden the horizon of that student and allow them the opportunity to be a true, contributing member of society in the field they can truly succeed in.

Crawford also makes reference to Alexandre Kojeve in his article when he writes, “The man who works recognises his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he see in it his own human reality; in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself”.  There is a certain pride and self recognition when an individual sees their product making an impact on their community. It proves that there was a need and their contribution to society is appreciated, even if no one offers their gratitude, one can see his or her product at work and sometimes that’s all the appreciation that’s needed.

In conclusion, an individual who designs and produces something for the world he or she lives in, put their blood sweat and tears into that product.  Through classes that afford an opportunity to teach the fundamentals of how to create and produce that which is in their thought, overtime, develops a passion to labor in love for whatever it is that they do;  to see the idea they had come to fruition, used and appreciated by others offers that individual the gratification they deserve because they know it is coming deep from a place within them. How they feel about a well manufactured piece of furniture, let’s say, indicates the level of self worth for that person.

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