Sunday, January 18, 2015

Industrial Arts

Don't call it "shop class." That's a term reserved for those blow-off classes in middle school people don't want their kids taking because they're the functional equivalent of basket weaving. But it's shop class.

The objective is to make something functional, like a small wooden bookshelf, a wrought-iron candle holder, a plastic letter opener, or a step stool. Getting there involves the techniques used in the workshop, by skilled tradespeople before robots take all their jobs. But let us not be fooled: putting certain young people around squaring shears, drills, vice grips and buffers will turn shop class into a little shop of horrors.

Listen to the instructions of one of my shop Industrial Arts teachers and you may safely deduce the kinds of hijinks which go on:

"When you take one of these rods out of the pile, flip it out on the floor and drag it to your desk for cleaning with a paper towel. Do not wipe it on my pants with that scungy grease."

"How many people heard me say, 'Waste those pop rivets!?'"

"Please leave the arm on this paper cutter up so it doesn't come up and bang somebody in the eye."

"If you're not to the point of having all these pieces cut out, you're hurtin'."

"This other teacher made a nice industrial drawing, and look what you did to it!"

"I will not baby-sit."

"Are you gonna leave it like that, with all that scungy grease?"

Fortunately, we're not on a production deadline, because between the goofing around of a select few people, it's a wonder we get anything done without blowing up the school. Nowadays, at one charter high school here in Tucson, kids build off-road vehicles. And at another, they design software. High school is so cool at these places, I sometimes wish I could back up and go through it again there. Someday these kids are going to build a spec house as an advanced-placement class and we'll all be wondering, "What just happened?"

That would have never happened in my day. Not with kids coming into the work area burping in three different octaves.

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