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Shop Class as Soulcraft QOTD

2009-11-13 04:35:51.464665+00 by Dan Lyke 10 comments

From page 129 of Shop Craft as Soulcraft[Wiki]:

In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that the expansion of higher education beyond labor market demand creates for white-collar workers "employment in substandard work or at wages below those of the better-paid manual workers." What's more, "it may create inemployability of a particularly disconcerting type. The man who has gone trhough college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work."

But that's okay, because organizations like Starbucks spring up in order to utilize that new labor pool.

[ related topics: Invention and Design Work, productivity and environment Education Race Economics ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-14 13:06:08.316878+00 by: meuon

Like you (Dan) and Charlene, I've been watching Nancy blossom in her college classes, Covenent's Quest program is pretty good, and a good fit for her. But sometimes, as she talks about things from class I smile and nod, but am thinking: "I could make the teacher take the other side, my arguments would blow his mind, I could gather class concensus and win". and I have to remind myself that these classes are not a combat zone of intellectual debate and discovery. They are a process one goes through, to get a degree, to prove to others who have gone through the same process that you, too, are worthy and "in the club".

I respected the USAF's tech classes, they were purely oriented to: "How quickly can we cram things you will actually need to know into your head".

M's classes would have been enjoyable. I am still seeking out an informal version of it. Seeking out smarter people than me, seeking mentorship, discourse and friendship. Flutterby is a good way to stay in touch and continue those relationships.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-14 12:27:04.124311+00 by: Chris

yes, critical thinking is the spark that needs to be kindled into flame. education should be an awakening process, rather than an assembly line that produces clones and parrots

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 23:29:43.405731+00 by: m

I did not do well in academia in high school or the first two years of college either. Except for courses that interested me. The last two years I spent in the school honors program as a result of preliminary work done on an undergraduate thesis in chemical physics, which was the only real academic accomplishment that I had. The honors program suited me. Ten students and a wide variety of resident and visiting profs ranging from an Indian Jesuit who worked at the Goddard Space Center to a cohort of Norbert Wiener -- who taught both Comparative Religion and partial differential equations. The arts and humanities were not neglected, and I found a far greater appreciation than I ever had before.

A class would come into existence when one or more students, and one or more Profs wanted it to. Classes were relatively few and far between, and students were as likely to meet their instructor in a bar, coffee shop or their home as an office. There were no formal tests, but you can't fool someone about what you know and what you have been doing in a one to one conversation. The goal of this educational process was certainly not regurgitation, but rather the development of a life of self directed learning. I really flourished in that environment.

Too unstructured, and certainly too expensive, for anything but an experiment.

When I speak of critical thinking, I don't refer to a pedagogical process. I don't expect someone to name the logical fallacy in an argument -- I generally can't myself. But rather to understand that there is an error and why. That D does not follow from A, B and C, rather than pronouncing "glittering generality."

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 19:42:40.131107+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, my first job out of high school was in a union print shop, and I both understood why and how the union was there, and resolved that I'd never work in a union shop again. I've also talked to a number of people who've been to one trade show in Chicago, and have said they're never going back because the union harassment was too much.

I finished Shop Craft as Soulcraft[Wiki] last night, and there are two books I'd like to see: One is something about the economics of mass-production, why we hold on to over-paying people for mind-numbing jobs that can be mechanized, how this ties in to the notion put forward in A Farewell to Alms[Wiki] that it was the discipline for the soul-crushing work that the Brits instilled in their subjects that led to the industrial revolution; the other is some exploration of how a notion of individual craftsmanship can tie into the whole "quality" movement in manufacturing, Deming, TQM and the like.

To m's point, I found that I wasn't suitable for academic education, and as I help Charlene with her classwork I'm reminded of all of the reasons I loathed grade school, and then college. There's a lot of the rituals of that style of academics that's about respecting opinions and traditions in a way that encourages suppression of forward progress and knowledge. Charlene's currently taking a required class called "Critical Thinking" promulgated by the philosophy department, and it's a complete load of "shovel back the opinions, no matter the validity of the arguments, put forward by the teacher". I'm actually considering see if I can get back into school so I can take the class so I can see if the teacher is this intellectually shallow, or if it's more a function of how Charlene is reacting to him. However, given that she's relating well to her astronomy teacher, I rather think it's the former.

I think there are a number of people like me who either struggle through college and then probably never figure out that they shouldn't have taken that path to begin with, or who break out in their own direction, but would have been far better served with a social structure that was more in the vo-tech mold than the traditional university one, even where that education would end up being as technical and in-depth as portions of your average college degree. That I have trouble mustering the "shut up and regurgitatitude" of your average philosophy or social sciences class doesn't mean that I'm uninterested in learning.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 18:37:50.846088+00 by: Chris

I grew up in Decatur, about 4 hours south of Chicago. When I was 18, I tried to get into the carpenter's union, as you stated, the game is heavily rigged. Years later when the union was harassing us on several commercial jobs where I was a foreman, and also committing serious destructive vandalism on the properties and our trucks, they approached me through the back door channels and offered me a Journeyman's card if I would help vote them in as our bargaining agent in a certification election. In 1995 another company I was working for was building a Fairfield Inn in Joliet, the union carpenter/thugs came on the jobsite and knocked the braces off the first floor walls and dropped them on the ground and seriously wrecked a guy's truck. The carpenter's union and the police union in Joliet reportedly share the same building as their union hall. The next year, we were building 2 hotels in Tinley Park, 20 miles to the east where we encountered tactics that would get the perpetrators classified as terrorists today, but up in that area are considered "normal business practices" Al Capone did quite well in the area also.... So, perhaps my attitude towards unions is slightly skewed In closing, I arrived at my present station in life as a Master Carpenter solely through hard work, perseverance and a desire to excel, survival was secondary, and a few times, doubtful. But, as I have said to the boys out on the job more than once:" you gotta want to be here, and it helps if you love it" I don't need no stinking union card, done quite well

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 17:18:27.744264+00 by: petronius

There are other issues. In Chicago, a heavily unionized town, you won't get a construction job on a big project without a union card. And the unions are run like secret societies, with memberships handed down as heirlooms. The unions have been forced to open up to some women and minorities, but I notice that most of them are out in the chilly winds waving the orange flag at the passing traffic. Meantime, if you just want to get your porch rebuilt you go looking for the 15 Strazalka bothers, just off the plane from Kracow. They work fast, they work at a reasonable price, and they have no insurance.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 17:00:00.403881+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

I have a friend who has two masters and maybe even a doctorate. Yet he seems "psychically unemployable". He has (miserably) held a couple of jobs in retail. He keeps looking for work in a university environment, but there are a *lot* of people looking for jobs in the university environment.

On the other hand, I've known experienced welders, plumbers, and electricians who were much happier and still maintained a lot of intellectual curiosity.

All this leaves me wondering about the emphasis on college over blue collar occupations.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 15:01:55.84834+00 by: m

There is an emphasis on academic education for those whom it is not suitable. My wife and I are working with a family in a manner similar to that which Dan is doing, though our efforts are with the parents rather than the family as a whole. Our focus is on the marriage itself, budgeting and goal development.

The father has some 120 credits towards a BA in "human services" but has dropped out after an internship. In his degree program he was required to take 7th grade remedial math, and resented having to take elementary algebra because it was presented at too rapid a pace for him. Not only are his mathematical and language skills limited, but he has little ability to think critically. He works at a minimum wage job at an animal shelter.

For all of that, he does have an inquisitive and curious mind. His capacity is limited. But he has been terribly failed by the educational system on many levels. He was not a good candidate for formal academic education. For him to progress, the curriculum had to be watered down to what I consider to be less than a high school level. This not only wasted his time and money, but shortchanged his intellectual development. He would get more out of his current attempts at self-education, but the system has left him with a rather limited skill set.

This is general problem. Over my working career I ran across too many individuals who possessed advanced "good check" degrees -- they got their degrees if their checks didn't bounce. Job degree requirement inflation has inevitably resulted in degree degradation.

It is not that I disparage education. In general we have too little. And too much of that is focused on the wrong goals. We need a variety of formats and routes for such training. Requiring associates and bachelors degrees for clerical positions is more than disingenuous, and less than utile.

#Comment Re: Work, Education made: 2009-11-13 13:12:39.118567+00 by: Chris

I attended one year of college on a scholarship intending to pursue a career in Photojournalism, but found it to be tedious and mostly irrelevant, of course I had an 18 year old's arrogance affecting my perceptions, but it was mostly fluff and bullshit they were shoveling out. Since then, have spent just shy of 40 years as a Carpenter/Woodworker and it often led to other tangents, learned enough other trades to keep me busy for several lifetimes. I have 4 sons and have often wrangled with the possibilities that they could pursue in their choices of professions and came to the conclusion that I just want them healthy, happy and busy, some of the most miserable people I see and know wear a tie, so perhaps that influenced my advice to my boys somewhat. Without being a manipulative domineering jerk, I always tried to instill in them a love of work and a desire to master whatever their lives put in their path. These 4 sons were the product of 2 marriages, the oldest now is in his early 30's, he is a Licensed General Contractor in Orange County on the Left Coast and my youngest is 16 and is very accomplished in a number of areas and usually excels in whatever he chooses to focus his talents and energies upon. It DOES take all kinds of people to keep this Earth turning, but I would rather be faced with a mortar box than a inbox

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-13 11:38:44.808483+00 by: meuon

For far too long our liberal "English/Psych Major" driven educational system has artificially elevated itself above the value of a trade or skill with intrinsic value. And honestly, those PhD's with a focus in "Comparitive American Literature of 1818 whose last names started with E" make crappy barista's. So much unfocused angst makes the coffee bitter.