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I have no answer

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Industrial arts education, often including woodshop, has been disappearing from high schools at an alarming rate. It just happened where I live.

I get very upset when I see schools canceling industrial arts and other courses of education I hold dear, but I have to say right up front that I have no answers at all for this. And that makes me even more upset.

The local school system where my wife substitute-teaches just cut their industrial arts program, canning two teachers in the process. They also eliminated the consumer science program – what we old folks used to call home economics – and fired that teacher, too. Because that’s the very area my wife taught for decades, she’s as upset as I am about the industrial arts cut.

At the board meeting where they announced this last night, not one but two graduates of the school who are now professional carpenters spoke on the value of industrial arts courses and how both had chosen their careers based entirely of their industrial arts education. Of course, the decisions were already set in concrete so what they had to say, and the validity of their statements, accomplished little.

As I noted right at the start, I have no answers and I don’t know how to fix this. I do know that cutting these programs is a great loss. Where will tomorrow’s woodworkers come from? I have no clue. Except maybe one.

While she’s not a professional woodworker – she’s actually a college science professor – my daughter never had industrial arts in school. In a manner of speaking, however, she did have it at home. She learned about woodworking, and learned to love it, through me.

That, of course, is the “old way” of passing on industrial skills and knowledge. Taking a young person under your wing and showing them how things work, how to fix things, and how to make things on their own when they’re adults. In my daughter’s case, that worked.

Is that the answer? I have no idea, but it’s probably something we woodworkers should be doing more of.

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