Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Everyone Should Be a Bureacrat

When we moved into our new place, Uncle Pookie decided to get cable. Frivolous and unnecessary, sure, but I'll admit to watching more than I should and to liking the DVR feature. Mostly having television allows us to watch stuff we would have watched on DVD or Netflix streaming anyway, such as catching Burn Notice episodes as they air instead of a season at a time on DVD, but there's a new-to-us show we like called Sons of Guns. It's a reality show set in a gun shop in Baton Rouge. It's interesting subject matter and the owner of the shop reminds us of a friend of ours who died, so we enjoy watching.

Occasionally while watching the gunsmiths at work, it will cross my mind that these men have the kind of job that modern elites sneer at.

Every episode the guys at the gun shop are presented with a problem that they need to solve. They then have to use their seemingly vast knowledge of weaponry and tools and mechanics, plus good old human brainpower to figure out how to solve the problem. Then they have to test their solution and modify it as necessary. They are clearly thinking.

But it's largely manual work, you see: blue collar. A trade. Therefore of little value. There can be no creativity in it or satisfaction. Their school guidance counselors should have encouraged them a little harder to seek white collar work, preferably in the nonprofit world.

Or not. I touched on the fallacy of manual work being mindless once before here. And I was reminded of this stuff again  when I read "Why your teenager can't use a hammer" today. (Link from a Mark Steyn post, which had an interesting follow up from John Derbyshire, who has been known to describe a particular education fad as the "No American Should Have to Do Manual Work" belief.) It is very interesting reading.

I'm also reminded by it of a news article last year, which had teachers in England saying that children were arriving at school poorly prepared to do math, because they had spent nearly all their playtime indoors watching screens, instead of manipulating real world objects; a specific example was children today not having the understanding that two differently shaped objects might still have the same volume that children who'd spent time playing with containers in a sandbox would have had. Playing in the dirt or with blocks and crayons instead of handheld game systems or just playing outside the constant oversight of adults for an hour or so turns out to have benefits in muscular development, brain development, and encouragement of independence. The "cotton wool generation" is missing out on a lot of experiences.

I'm buying my soon-to-arrive nephew a toy tool bench. It goes on the list with crayons and paper and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

No comments: