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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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