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“As educators prepare students to become ‘knowledge workers,’ manual competence is out of favor. Hard-headed economists point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and hard-headed educators say it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, identified as jobs of the past, but how hard headed are the presumptions that steer young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work? Haven’t the ‘jobs of tomorrow’ become wedded to virtualism; a vision of the future which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy?

Consider: While manufacturing jobs have mostly left our shores, the manual trades have not. If you need a deck built, or your car fixed, the Chinese are of no help, because they are in China. Yet, the trades and manufacturing are lumped together as fading ‘blue collar.’

The pride of the tradesman is far from the gratuitous ‘self esteem’ many educators impart to students. They can simply point: The deck stands, the car now runs. The craftsman’s deference is not to the new, but to the distinction between the right way and the wrong way.” (by Matthew B. Crawford in the AARP Journal, Summer 2007.)

Last week, Bill Bailey and I went out to interview two craftspeople in the county. Both of these men talked of the pride in their work and the opportunity for creativity. Tom McColley showed baskets that have stood the test of time and are still in perfect condition. We also visited Jim Labaw, a woodworker, who can take a rough piece of wood and turn it into bowls, boxes and jewelry of individual design.

This feeling of pride is evident in builders, mechanics, stone masons, beauticians, and other so-called manual workers.

Let us pass this feeling on to our young people. It is a computer oriented world, but we still need to train our students in skills of manual competence.

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