In my head I see a video of when I was in grade school. It might’ve been in kindergarten or first grade, but certainly not later than that. A group of us was taken over across the road from the grade school side of our campus to the high school side. They led us into the cinderblock building where the shop class was held.
There was a young man there. (For the benefit of my old friends, he was one of the Reeves boys. Not Roger, but the handsome one.) He was one of the high school students, the big kids; he was like a god to us. He showed us the equipment they had there in the shop. I forget almost all of what he showed us. Indeed, I only remember one piece: the band saw. He impressed upon us how dangerous it was — how dangerous all the equipment was — and how brave he was for learning to work with it.
We lapped it up like puppies.
We looked forward to the day when we would take that class ourselves, and learn to use all of that dangerous equipment.
The day never came.
I don’t know why that was. In our case, it may have been because that was a period in which the oilfield in which we lived was contracting, our population base was declining, and our school was getting smaller. Regardless, we were part of a nationwide trend.
Most schools don’t offer shop classes anymore. I don’t know why. It could be because shop classes are expensive to equip; it might be because shop classes are difficult to staff; it might be because shop classes are inherently dangerous and high school administrators nationwide are risk averse. Undoubtedly, it is a combination of all these things and probably some I didn’t mention.
It’s a shame. Shop classes taught skills that you could go out and earn a living with; skills that sharpen the mind as well as the hand; skills that open the door between the real world and the world of books. Not only can these skills be applied to making a living, they can be used at home to reduce the expense of home repair and as an entree to a hobby. You can take these manual skills and — if you choose to — become an artisan.
We could stop here and be regretful that things are getting worse, that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and it’s a handbasket that no one knows how to fix.
Or we can light a candle.
There is something in this country called the Makers Movement. I’ve become gradually aware of it as I bounced about YouTube, learning about Arduino, Raspberry Pie, table saws, Python, robots, etc.
It’s pretty cool.
Associated with it are places called Maker’s Spaces. They are places that have equipment you can come in and use to make stuff. They can provide venues for classes. They can be places where you can bring your grandchildren things their parents don’t have time to because they are too busy earning a living. Or you can make yourself available to teach other people’s grandchildren.
If only our community had such a place...
Well, it does. My Rotary Club met there a while back. It’s located in Block 22, and the space is gorgeous. To my mind, we only need a few more things to be put in place before it provides a spark that will transform our community in a positive way. I am excited.
I can see a day when kindergarten kids and first graders will be taken there and listen to handsome young people or colorful old people tell them about the equipment and how to use it safely for the betterment of their lives.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube.
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