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Forum topic by Gene Howe posted 06-16-2009 03:28 PM 1208 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Gene Howe

11167 posts in 3669 days

06-16-2009 03:28 PM

Before retiring several years ago I worked as an educational consultant. In that capacity, I had the opportunity to visit numerous school systems throughout the Southwest. Although my job had nothing to do with wood tech. curriculum, I always managed to be able to spend some time in those classes. Most were taught by dedicated and knowledgeable teachers. However, in talking to these guys and inspecting their equipment, it seemed apparent that these men had little support from their school boards. Yet, the classes were full of students eager to learn the craft. Most of the teachers were of the opinion that when they retired the classes would no longer be offered. It seems that not enough universities were offering degrees in that area of education. No degrees equals no teachers equals no classes. School boards realize this and, money being tight, they fund other classes. It’s shortsighted IMO but, it makes good sense from their standpoint.

On the other hand, there are a few excellent programs that remain vibrant, with good financial support. These programs all offered CAD/CAM, metal fabrication, HVAC, auto, machine shop, and woodworking. Those school systems actively recruit from the few universities that continue to offer the requisite degrees. These school systems have made very heavy investments, as you can imagine. At least one of the teachers I met has procured numerous grants from private sources. He said to me that it was just a matter of self preservation and job security. However, his students’ enthusiasm and outstanding product belie his comments. He is one great teacher.

The point of this ramble is to hopefully spark a discussion and, maybe some action by folks to heighten awareness of the need for academic instruction in the various trades. America needs it tradesmen, now more than ever. I truly believe that we have an obligation to our kids to provide them with the opportunity to create with their hands and hearts as well as with their heads.

To borrow a line from a TV talking head “What say you?”


P.S. I’ll be posting this in other forums, too.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

9 replies so far

View lew's profile


12512 posts in 3996 days

#1 posted 06-16-2009 04:29 PM

What you have said is true- about academic schools.

However, there are Vocational Schools (high school level) that cover the spectrum of trade, industrial and technical skills. These “Career and Technology” centers are funded, in part, by the school districts they serve as well as state and federal sources. These schools are government mandated to provide trade skills for job opportunities in the geographical areas they serve.

Unfortunately, these schools were typically thought of as a place where students- not of college caliber- were placed. Obviously, this thinking was flawed and in recent years educators and councilors on both sides- academic and vocational- realized that skilled trades education, both during and after high school- is an absolute necessity. Gifted students are now enrolling in skilled career fields and learning to work with their “hands”. Students who had no desire for college are continuing their education after high school graduation.

Let’s hope these educators continue to work together and help replace the aging skilled force in America.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View a1Jim's profile (online now)


117417 posts in 3817 days

#2 posted 06-16-2009 04:37 PM

I volunteer at my local high school in their wood shop certainly it is low priority for my school district even though few students in my little town will go on to collage.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 3669 days

#3 posted 06-18-2009 03:14 PM

I think that part of the problem is buried in the fact that the young people are not exposed to the crafts/trades much earlier than high school level. There is no reason to believe that a seventh or eighth grader is going to chose wood shop as an elective course if he/she has never held and used a hammer, screwdriver or a saw (even a coping saw) much before that time.

Now, how big has the problem become. How many generations of youngsters need to be deprived of the experience before this whole thing comes back around. It may never. We may be the end of a dying breed.

I nailed together my first wood project, using materials from an orange crate, at about age 5. There was a select group of tools left in the garage where I could get to them when dad wasn’t home. ( dad’s tools were off limits at that time).

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3599 days

#4 posted 06-18-2009 03:42 PM

Personally, I don’t think its so much a “school” issue as it is a societal issue. If people bought quality furniture, equipment, etc. that they planned on keeping for a while and would care for it and repair it, I think that the schools would realize there is a need for this kind of instruction. However, when people are only concerned with how cheaply they can buy something and simply toss things as soon as there is the slightest problem, the message is that there is no need for quality, only cheapness.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View lew's profile


12512 posts in 3996 days

#5 posted 06-18-2009 04:17 PM

Maybe I could interject a bright spot here.

For the past couple of years- since retiring- I have been substituting in the Career and Tech Center where I had worked. While taking attendance, I notice lots of familiar last names from my time there. Asking if the young man/woman knows the familiar name; the answer is always “Yes”, they are my father/mother/brother/sister/aunt/uncle/grandfather/grandmother (take your pick).

The point is that those who have learned the value of trade skills impart that value to their offspring. It is not unusual to see an entire group of siblings or several generations pass thru a Career Center.

We, as trades people, can make a difference. Encourage your children/relatives to pick up that tool. Offer to nurture those skills. Get involved with the local schools. Encourage business owners to share their concerns with school officials.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3830 days

#6 posted 06-18-2009 06:27 PM

I’ve always looked at it different. I particularly don’t want my children to learn woodworking or those skills unless they are 100% intrigued by it and want to do it. Everything is like religion to me, especially woodworking. You can choose to believe in it on your own, from experiences, etc, or it can be pushed into you like an I.V. Why do I not want to teach my kids woodworking? Simple. I want them to be successful. I want them to have a career that will pay well, have perks, retirement, etc. It has to be a secure long term job. You don’t have that in this industry. They need to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, fireman, police officers, etc. Things that can set them up with a pension. Not the low guy on the totem pole. If they want to be artists that great. They can learn it, love it, etc. But as far as education goes, they need to be taught what will bring them success. Today it’s technology not skills.

Working in the garage making a bird house with your son or daughter is priceless. That’s what we can give them. Our time. They will learn what they want to learn. If they don’t want to work with you in the garage play dolls or football. Teach them to be good kids. Help them with their homework. There’s very few people these days that even have skills to pass down. Hell how many people know how to change a tire? Teach them things of value. Things that can save their lives in an emergency. Teaching them how to swing a hammer is gearing them up to make a poor career choice. Do you want your kids to struggle like we are? They need to be the ones designing the machines of tomorrow, since we are replacing man with machine. We don’t want them to be the ones being replaced when they grow up.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

11167 posts in 3669 days

#7 posted 06-18-2009 08:08 PM

My original post was not meant to suggest that a “Trades” program should be anything other than an elective, at any grade level.

In defense of classes that teach “skills”, there isn’t one academic subject that cannot be taught or reinforced in a “trades” class. It’s been well documented that students who learn to apply the knowledge they’ve gained will have far greater success in the next level of instruction than those who did not have the opportunity to relate their knowledge in different settings.

We fail our kids if we don’t allow for options in education. A trades program with a diverse menu of subjects (not just wood shop) would be just one option kids could choose. There is a plethora of other educational opportunities, that the current emphasis on “academic” subjects, are tossed by the wayside by default.

In my jr. and sr. high school, we were offered such subjects as “Elements of Design”, Metal working, Welding, Agronomy and Plant science, Art, including ceramics and fiber and a bunch of relevant business classes relating to farming business. And, that was for a student population of around 600 kids K-12. My graduating class numbered 17 and my rank in that class was 23rd! NOT a good student was I.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View DrDirt's profile


4526 posts in 3982 days

#8 posted 06-27-2009 12:24 AM

I have a mixed response to kolwoodworker.
I find that high school students – really have no idea what they are really passionate about – (besides sex)
I took woodshop every year, because I enjoyed it. Fact is it is an elective – and that 45 minutes in craft, simply adds to the breadth of experience to draw from. I received my PhD in Chemistry and lead a group of engineers.
So I have to take exception to the concept that “Teaching them how to swing a hammer is gearing them up to make a poor career choice. ” That idea is proven absolutely false.
As a graduate student we did experiments at the Accelerator at Brookhaven National labs…We built our experimental set-ups.
I think that the removal of shop from school – which was a requirement in the 80’s for 1 semester for everyone, has contributed to the creation of a “helpless generation” Who understand technology, but neet a building superintendant to tighten a loose cabinet door. Additionaly it has bred a cultural elitism to have a bunch of 20 somethings look down their nose on those who couldn’t get in to or afford college.
Wanting our kids to have jobs with pensions and good salaries….Those things don’t hardly exist anymore and it is getting worse not better. How many on this community have been laid off after 20+ years.
It will be important that people learn to do things for themselves – I am happy to build a treehouse with my kids and DO NOT AGGREE that them learning to swing a hammer has doomed them to working at McDonalds forever.
I’m not a musician either, but we took music, Art classes, as well as science and math. I cannot strongly enough oppose limiting the curriculum available to students. They need the breadth of experience and guidance from parents – on what is more of a hobby – or short term plan. Just like the parents of Athletes who insist that junior finish their degree before entering the NFL draft.

I just completed a week at Marc Adams School, doing a woodturning class – about 3/4 of the people there were in engineering and IT – and the rest were retired – though 1 was a broadway actor playing the Phantom of the Opera. After working at computers all day- there is a therapeutic side to working in the shop and looking at the tangible results.
By all means steer your kids away from the crafts as a profession, but don’t arbitrarily limit their education though ideology.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18425 posts in 3916 days

#9 posted 06-27-2009 01:54 AM

Kids really need a well rounded experience which includes mechanical principles as well a push towards college. The degree required to get an interview is a bit ridiculous. There are many jobs that do not require a degree, they require real world experience. That includes the majority of hi-tech jobs. There are very few people who work in the areas of their degrees unless it is science or engineering. Too many college degrees pumping gas and waiting tables. Not to be condescending towards college grads :-)), but far too many I have dealt with over the last 40 years do not have the ability so see reality in the field. The most complex machine in the world still works by the most basic of mechanical principles. A little practical application experience would beat none at all :-)) I was a 4.0 guy who dropped out of college after the 1st semester. I have never regretted it. I think it’s a societal mind set that needs to change. I have detected a lot of “degreed” folks who really resent a “blue collar” guy solving their problems during my career as an electrician.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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