Reply by BTimmons

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Posted on Popular Mechanics Article - Americans losing DIY skills

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2303 posts in 2454 days

#1 posted 04-11-2013 07:50 PM

In his book ‘The Demon Haunted World’, Carl Sagan wrote -

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

Granted, good old Uncle Carl was addressing heavy subjects like loosing our technological edge as a first world country, societal collapse and nuclear war in that book. Not exactly the same thing as not knowing how to swing a hammer. But the principle applies. Our ancestors made just about everything they owned and used, and here we are running to Walmart to buy a chair made of plastic, on the other side of the world, that’s just going to break in a year or two anyway.

It goes way back to the beginning of the Information Age and the decline of American manufacturing. We had an economy based on making things, that gradually shifted towards service sector work. Now, there’s nothing inherently bad or “less American” (whatever that means) about either line of work. But the fact remains that focusing heavily on either side will leave you lacking in skills and awareness.

I can’t help but think less of an adult that doesn’t know how to use a screwdriver. And I also can’t help but think less of someone that is computer illiterate and/or can’t write worth a damn. So in spirit, I’m neither white or blue collar, but somehow I have elitist feelings about both. Maybe a flaw in my own character. I don’t know, but there it is.

I was born in 1980 so I was raised during a time when vying for a service sector job (i.e. anything that had me sitting behind a computer) was the thing to do. Video games were present from early on. But so were Lego sets. I was much more inclined to art and music for the earliest parts of my life, but being in Scouts also allowed me to experience things outside of my suburban existence. Building fires, using an ax to cut firewood, archery, things you couldn’t exactly do in your back yard.

I get my soft spoken and introverted personality from my dad. He’s not the most alpha male guy, but I did learn a few skills from him as a kid. How to cut a board with a saw, drive screws, drill holes, hammer a nail, etc. Nothing really advanced, but it’s something. He never changed his own oil or taught me how to (which I swear I’ll do someday). But when I was a teenager and I was about to start driving, he did make me change a tire right there in the driveway. That, and being able to inflate your tires and jump start a car should at least be the baseline of mechanical skills for any driver. I intend to make my daughter do the same thing when she’s old enough. Potty training comes first, though.

-- Brian Timmons -

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