Mechatronics: It’s not your dad’s shop class

Virginia high school students will begin learning “mechatronics” to prepare for engineering tech classes in community college, well-paid jobs in high-tech manufacturing and possible transfer to Virginia Tech for a four-year engineering degree.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

The college track shouldn’t be the only path through school, says Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, in an interview with Popular Mechanics. Crawford spent a year teaching Latin in high school to students who were trying to boost their SAT scores to get into college, which they’d been told was obligatory for everyone.

MC:  . . .  Half of them were jacked up on Ritalin just trying to stay awake. I felt like if I had been able to take some of these kids aside, and say “Hey, let’s build a deck,” or “Let’s overhaul an engine,” they would have perked right up.

PM: The obverse of that is that now it’s very difficult for car dealerships and independent repair shops to find the type of people who have the math and computer and diagnostic skills to fix anything, because it’s a profession that’s not respected.

MC: That’s right, I think. And the truth is that some kids who are very smart would rather be learning to build things and fix things, but they’re being hustled off into office work. . . .

PM: The kid who can’t pass algebra and get into college, who gets shunted into the Voc-Ed track, won’t have the math and computer and diagnostic skills to fix a modern car.

MC: And a lot of schools don’t even have an auto shop any more. I heard from an educator in Oregon that one of the fastest growing segments of the student body at community colleges is people who already have a four-year degree and go back to get a trade skill because it’s more marketable.

When I remodeled my kitchen, I was struck by the fact that all the workmen were immigrants. I had Mexicans, Israelis, Russians, a wonderful Ethiopian carpenter, you name it. But only the bosses — some of them — were American born and raised.