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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teens need shop class - not 'technology ed'

Students need to get up from their desks, away from their screens and into shop, home ec and other hands-on classes, opines Pamela Paul in the New York Times.


Woodworking class at Bakersfield High in California.

"After decades of decline, Career Technical Education, as it’s now known, is . . . now likely to consist of digital design, 3-D printing, communications and computer science," she writes. More screens. In New York, “industrial arts” has become “technology education.”


Home ec -- now dubbed Family and Consumer Sciences -- has withered.


Paul wants to bring back home ec and shop for college-bound students, as well as for those seeking paths to skilled jobs that don't require a degree.


Many young people aren't learning “adulting” skills at home, she writes. Furthermore, "the benefits of these classes — using one’s hands, working with real-world materials, collaborating offscreen, taking risks — extend well beyond the classroom." "For kids who wear fast fashion but care about climate and overconsumption, it’s worth knowing how to darn a sock or patch a hole," she writes. (Has anyone darned a sock in the last 25 years?) "Likewise, in a country with skyrocketing obesity and high consumption of processed foods, learning how to make healthy, inexpensive meals is important."


Nonetheless, I think many students would appreciate the chance to learn manual skills beyond how to click a mouse.


I took shop in fourth, fifth and sixth grade: I made shelves, a lamp and a chessboard, using an electric table saw to cut wood. Nobody cut off so much as a fingertip. I also made a plastic ring, but it was sucked into the buffer and never seen again. I had two semesters of cooking in junior high, as well. It was nearly all baking. Due to a scheduling mishap, I never did sewing.

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Guest
Oct 23, 2023

Kids need to learn how to use their hands and how things work. The using their hands part is pretty straightforward: wood working, metal working or stonemasonry would all be good. Learning how things work is much more tricky. A semester or part of a semester devoted "adult skills" would probably be good: how money and banks work, how to wash clothes, how to do simple cooking, etc. The bigger topic of how things work is much harder. I was changing out a lockset on a door recently and someone asked me "how do you know how to do that?" Thinking about it, I realized I had no idea. I've been around tools and mechanical devices for decade…

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Guest
Oct 24, 2023
Replying to

That's sad. Changing out a lockset is as simple as unscrewing/screwing two long bolts, swapping out the lock body, and maybe changing out the strikeplate. Last year I bought some big-box locksets and rekeyed them to match my old keys. That would really blow their minds.

Also, hang on, they spend all day watching Tiktok and Youtube, and they can't figure out where to learn how to do new things?

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Guest
Oct 23, 2023

When I was in 8th grade in 1976-77, home economics (one semester) and industrial arts (one semester) were required courses for ALL students, male or female...

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Guest
Oct 23, 2023
Replying to

Once again, anecdotes are pointless.

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Guest
Oct 22, 2023

There's plenty of making things in tech. 3d printing is making things. Soldering. Welding. CNC routing. And there are also woodworking classes. People don't know what the hell they're talking about.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Oct 21, 2023

Folks, we're living in the 21st century; educating the young for the 20th, or the 19th, is insane. Vocational education & training for technical careers is best done in states like Switzerland, where most upper secondary youth spend around three days per week at company sites using fully up-to-date equipment under the watchful eyes of trained masters, while they spend approximately three days every two weeks in secondary schools completing their general education, and one day every two weeks is spent with other educational organizations offering specialized courses branching between their educational & guild sectors, depending upon which trade they are learning.

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Guest
Oct 21, 2023

School is full inclusion. Family & CS here is middle school. Its an exercise in patience if one is from a functioning family and unclassified. Make instant pudding, using a measuring cup. Wash something in a washing machine...skill is reading the label and picking the wash cycle. Stove and knife safety and usage aren't included in the course. Sewing is baste some craft felt with a needle and thread and put one button on, with a kit that the families have to pay the cost of a meal for. At that age, in the 70s, my class was sewing a blouse on the machine. Most of us were responsible for cooking and serving at least one family meal at…


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Guest
Oct 23, 2023
Replying to

Nor will they learn at college...they still hire out. A small segment though, compared to the vast numbers attending public school that do have household chores.

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