“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.” Robert A. Heinlein Time Enough for Love

(Yah this particular RAH quote is endlessly spouted by toxic 4chan dudebros, libertarian shithead racists and the like, but the basic sentiment is correct, the greater breadth of experience we have, the better humans we are.

We should all be allowed to learn things not just for utility, but for learning’s sake, to exercise the hand and mind together.

Also, just in case we need to butcher a hog..)

This blog thing has been sitting here unused , and I feel like shouting into the void.

I am a 60-something Baby Boomer working in IT for an academic institution, so you’ll probably peg me as some incorrigible lefty.

You would be right.

In my junior year of HS history our teacher had everyone rank ourselves from 1 to 10 on a political scale right to left. Everyone else in our class put themselves somewhere between 4 and 7. I went up and put my mark on 10…I was a rabid communist or maybe anarchist at the time. Smash Capitalism,  and all that.

This was followed by a stint as a libertarian, anarcho-syndicalist and after 1980 I saw the light about voting for third party candidates.(sorry John!)

A waste of time and worse, a waste of a vote.

Like it or not (and many don’t) our system has long ago coalesced between two sides. Ever since then I’ve been a solid team D (even if team D hasn’t always been that solid…but given the choice of evil and lesser evil, vote for the fucking LESSER evil, idiots!)

Crazy moonbat liberal. Yep, I wear it and wear it proud!

Which takes me to…shop class...(betcha didn’t see THAT coming!)

See, back when I was  kid in High School we had a host of different ‘Industrial Arts’ classes we could take. Being a kid, we didn’t see the cruelty this system did to Kids Not Like Us.

They were just fun classes we could take that didn’t have homework. I happily bounced through them: I learned a little bit about printing (our high school had been gifted some old Linotype machines by the local newspaper when they moved to photo-offset printing in the early 70’s), welding, electronics, woodshop, metal shop (I still have the plumb bob and paper weight I made in that class), sheet metal shop (my mom still has the funnel I made in that class), auto shop and photography shop. Had any of those classes really resonated, and I showed talent, I could take more advanced classes, enough to get me accepted into a Union apprentice program if I wanted, maybe.

You know, learn a trade, get a job, have a happy middle-class blue collar life…

In each of them I learned the bare rudiments of the subject, and was allowed to discover whether I liked it or not, whether I had a talent for it or not.  At the time, I didn’t realize that  Kids Not Like Me were shunted into these classes to learn things more suited to their skin color and expected life outcomes, versus the AP Biology I also took.

Parents of Kids Not Like Me raiused a legitimate ruckus about their children being shunted off into ‘Vocational’ versus ‘Academic’ tracks, and rightly so.

Conveniently, this played right into the hands of the ‘Edumacational Basics’ folks who would later spawn the likes of Education Secretary DeVos, and so all classes turned to teaching to the test and those ‘useless, discriminatory’ shop classes were tossed to the wayside.

After all America didn’t need common workers any more, we were all going to be MBA’s juggling Financial Con Games at Hedge Funds to make money…and besides, it turned out shop classes were expensive and required tax dollars to support.

Which sucks because, regardless of my eventual career path all those skills have taught me things, things that have enriched my life, even if they haven’t directly impacted my career. I learned enough to enjoy making things with my hands, even if I do it poorly-but-enthusiastically, and I can appreciate and respect the folks who do it well.

Everyone should be exposed to these experiences, just like everyone should be exposed to AP biology…

But the Powers That Be decided that ‘Teaching to the Test’ was all that would happen in our schools and in the Holy Name of Tax Cuts, school budgets were slashed. Shop classes were right out.

The Kids Like Me would still get all the advantages, being from wealthier white families in well-funded districts, but the Kids Not Like Me in the not-so-well-funded districts couldn’t complain about being shunted into ‘Vocational’ training any more, no, they were branded failures and just kicked out into the streets…

Fast forward 45 years.

I get to talking to a student worker in our group. (whip-smart kid, bright future, we’re REALLY gonna miss him when he graduates in June…). Turns out he went to the same High School, sort of.

See, about a year before I graduated, the school district decided that they should have an academically advanced university prep program for the bright kids. Eventually it got co-located at my old high school and he was a graduate of that school.

I asked what happened to all the ‘shop classes’.

Well they mostly got turned into computer labs for the ‘regular’ high school, and he knew this because he’d sheltered in one during a ‘live shooter lockdown’ one time…there were still shop classes, but not at my old school, you had to enroll in a special school, JTED, akin to University High, but different, with an entirely different academic track aimed at providing workers for tech industries instead of academic careers.

So there it is, what my generation has gifted his: Active shooters, no shop classes and even greater separation in the school system between Kids Not Like Me and Kids Like Me. We don’t even go to the same KIND of schools anymore.

No wonder they hate us…

There is a solution.

It’s called simple fairness and a comittment to true equal opportunity: we’re the richest fucking country on Earth, and there’s no reason any of our kids shouldn’t be able to learn biology, algebra AND woodworking and welding. Well-rounded  human and all that. We’re all better humans if we have a poorly-made book shelf somewhere in our parents house we can piont to and say “I made that with my hands” even if what we do for a living is just pushing around electrons that repesent dollars somewhere.

It just has to be a priority, not an afterthought. We decide what to spend our national wealth on…

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“A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history, with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila”

–Mitch Ratliffe