Collectors Foundation News: Bring Back Shop Class



January 24, 2012

Shop classes have disappeared in many American schools and that’s bad news for the entire country—not just the world of historic boats and vehicles. A new presentation series sponsored by the Collectors Foundation highlights the importance of manual skills and trades in modern education and why more young people should be given the opportunity to work with their hands.

Even as the national unemployment rate hovers around 9-percent, jobs in manufacturing that pay in upwards of $80,000 a year are going unfilled. Among the reasons for the shortfall of workers, according to a Wall Street Journal report last year: the growing retirement rate of baby-boomers with sophisticated machine skills at a time when parents and guidance counselors discourage kids from pursuing careers in manufacturing.

While increasingly focusing on high-tech-related skills, modern educators continue to fall short when it comes to giving students the hands-on knowledge necessary to turn pixels on a computer screen into something real.

The Collector’s Foundation believes this is where bringing back shop class in American schools can help.

This month in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Collectors Foundation hosted the first in a focused series of themed presentations called Bring Back Shop Class. The purpose of the new series is to provoke thought and action about the direction education is taking in America while highlighting the economic, social, historic, and cultural importance of hands-on learning.

American society has so devalued shop class and people who learn and work with their hands that we live in endangered communities where critical technical skills—important to keeping our manufacturing sector and other important jobs—go wanting for lack of trained and knowledgeable workers.

With his lecture topic, “Education, Careers, and Kids Who Love Cars,” Michael Schneider, President of McPherson College, was the Collectors Foundation’s first presenter in this series. McPherson College, located in McPherson, Kansas, is a liberal arts college offering a four-year degree in automotive restoration technology that combines a career focused liberal arts program with an emphasis on hands-on, career-minded entrepreneurship. With this unique program, the school is challenging traditional education and Mr. Schneider’s presentation was at once inspiring and provocative.

In his presentation, Schneider challenged the audience of some 60 collector car enthusiasts to consider how education in America has changed—specifically, how modern academics is no longer about experience but instead information. According to Schneider, education must change from a mere exchange of information (now more easily and quickly accessed on Google) to helping students establish how that information connects with real experience. In the case of students majoring in McPherson College’s Automotive Restoration program, it’s about hands-on learning experiences restoring older vehicles.

In addition to hands-on learning opportunities, McPherson is encouraging all its students to experience risk-taking entrepreneurship—an avenue necessary to creating more American businesses that in turn create jobs for themselves and others. McPherson’s Auto Restoration Program, according to Schneider, is leading the way for the entire institution to change its traditional ways of thinking about education, and the Collectors Foundation was proud to present this first in its “Bring Back Shop Class” series of presentations.

To keep up-to-date on future presentations in this exciting and thought-provoking series, check out www.collectorsfoundation.org.

 

Comments

  1. Pete Peterson Vincennes, Indiana 47591

    Mr Schneider was preaching to the choir. He had many good points but the message needs to go NATIONWIDE. A small group of citizens are attempting to bring back the job skills necessary to live in these times. We are located in Lawrenceville, Ill and we have started a private (not for profit) vocational school to help young men and women learn the skills and get the motivation necessary to go to work in a real job. We find that this approach is foreign to many in the education business and repugnant to many parents who think their kids should not get their hands dirty. Flipping burgers is a real job, but the pay is low, because it can be learned in an hour or so, a skilled trade is not to be learned during a weekend or picked up during a rock concert. Dedication is required and work ethic is to be practiced if success in a valuable trade is the goal. The work skills learned during training toward a trade are transferrable to other jobs and are learned for a lifetime. Pete Peterson

  2. Ed Yahnker Goldsboro, NC

    I have been saying this for years. Not all kids need to go to college. Many need to learn a trade and get experience in how to repair things. I always included my children to work in the shop with me, and they have retained a great interest in cars. I think more companies should encourage shop classes in the middle schools on up.Great article!

  3. Brian Powers Nevada City, California

    I very much enjoyed this article on getting young people interested in the experiential aspect of a well-rounded education. I strongly believe that learning to work with your hands, building, repairing, and creating everyday objects, offers a tremendous ‘leg up’ to anyone entering the workplace regardless of their choice of professions. The graduating student may, in fact, still find themselves drawn towards the tech world, but the knowledge of how everyday things work and the self confidence to tackle mechanical projects will serve them their whole lives. I believe you will find these two web sites interesting. They cover two class projects offered to a group of high school girls, yes girls, and the truly exceptional results. The eighteen month total restoration of a 1958 Bug Eye Sprite, and the following four year restoration of a 1957 BMW Isetta . http://www.teamsprite.com/ http://www.teamisetta.com/ Brian Powers Special Projects Living Wisdom High School Nevada City, Calif.

  4. Brian Powers Nevada City, California

    I very much enjoyed this article on getting young people interested in the experiential aspect of a well-rounded education. I strongly believe that learning to work with your hands, building, repairing, and creating everyday objects, offers a tremendous ‘leg up’ to anyone entering the workplace regardless of their choice of professions. The graduating student may, in fact, still find themselves drawn towards the tech world, but the knowledge of how everyday things work and the self confidence to tackle mechanical projects will serve them their whole lives. I believe you will find these two web sites interesting. They cover two class projects offered to a group of high school girls, yes girls, and the truly exceptional results. The eighteen month total restoration of a 1958 Bug Eye Sprite, and the following four year restoration of a 1957 BMW Isetta . http://www.teamsprite.com/ http://www.teamisetta.com/ Brian Powers Special Projects Living Wisdom High School Nevada City, Calif.

  5. Brian Powers Nevada City, California

    I very much enjoyed this article on getting young people interested in the experiential aspect of a well-rounded education. I strongly believe that learning to work with your hands, building, repairing, and creating everyday objects, offers a tremendous ‘leg up’ to anyone entering the workplace regardless of their choice of professions. The graduating student may, in fact, still find themselves drawn towards the tech world, but the knowledge of how everyday things work and the self confidence to tackle mechanical projects will serve them their whole lives. I believe you will find these two web sites interesting. They cover two class projects offered to a group of high school girls, yes girls, and the truly exceptional results. The eighteen month total restoration of a 1958 Bug Eye Sprite, and the following four year restoration of a 1957 BMW Isetta . http://www.teamsprite.com/ http://www.teamisetta.com/ Brian Powers Special Projects Living Wisdom High School Nevada City, Calif.

  6. Taylor Smith Roberts, Idaho

    The above comments are very true, , yes all of the kids in school now are learning about the tech stuff and we all took english for at least twelve years which is kind of an overload, but something I've said for years is, kids will own a car during most of their life and they should have to be required to take at least a half year of a class that deals with the overall makeup of a car, know how a motor works, but not neccassarily how to rebuild a motor, know how a tranny, rearend, transaxle, brakes, cooling system, a/c system, the doors, and everything else works because there will come a time that they need to have that vehicle repaired and the mechanic will always try to talk over their head and confuse the customer with all kinds of technical terms and has a chance to rip the customer off. I've turned wrenches for 30+ years and have always tried to show the customer the problem first hand and explain it in the simplest terms possible, but they should have that knowledge when they walk in the front door of the repair shop, and also a good understanding of why preventitive maintence is so important. I disagree with the fact that this college is only teaching restoration of old cars, there is only so many to go around, they should also be teaching about the new computer controlled cars and all of the intracacies involved with them because they will also need to be repaired at one time or another and we as a nation will need qualified mechanics to do that job as well.

  7. Stu MacPherson Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

    If you want more on the philosophical, historical and sociological aspects of society's abandonment of hands on mechanics and craftsmanship, a great book to read is "Shop Class as Soulcraft", written by Matthew B. Crawford. To quote the dust jacket notes, " Those of us who sit in an office feel a lack of connection to the material world and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For those who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, Shop Class As Soulcraft seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Mathew Crawford makes a case for the kind of work that requires mastery of real things. Surprisingly, such work can be more intellectually demanding than the sort that deals with abstractions. Maintenance and repair work also cultivate certain ethical virtues, fostering habits of individual responsibility. Shop Class As Soulcraft rouses us from the passivity and dependence of consumer culture with a bracing call for self-reliance. It is a moving reflection of how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world." A great read.