I have a good friend who is a high school teacher. More specifically, he is a Tech Ed teacher. Those of you who are my age or older may wonder what it is that a Tech Ed teacher teaches. According to my friend, Tech Ed (for Technical Education) is the latest phase in the evolution of what we used to know as “Shop.” In my time, it was more formally knows as “Industrial Arts.” This was where kids who were not on a college track learned basic vocational skills usually relating to some kind of trade – metal working, engine repair, wood working and carpentry, machining or drafting, etc. Apparently, these sorts of things are no longer taught in High School. Apparently, schools now seem to want to prepare everyone to go to college.
OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think not by much. My friend actually expressed his concern about this at one point. He said, “It used to be that you could graduate from High School and have a good part of the skills you would need to build a house. Not anymore. I’m not sure where someone goes now if he wants to learn to be a carpenter.”
It is an irony, perhaps, that for all it’s talk about equality of opportunity and diversity, it seems to me that today’s educational establishment is actually becoming much narrower, and trying much harder to fit a wider rang of people into a much tighter channel. I suspect this the case because of a certain prejudice that is overlooked – a prejudice against manual labor. It has become an accepted perspective to view manual labor as almost the equivalent of slavery. It is assumed that if someone digs ditches, paves roads, frames houses, fixes cars, cuts trees, or any number of other forms of actual physical work, that they are most unfortunate, and that the only way to improve their lot is to leave behind their work and become a part of the new information economy. Hence the term “Tech Ed.” It basically means training in the use of computers.
This misguided philosophy is essentially the pervasive problem of Gnosticism. It’s a tough weed that almost derailed the early church, and is so hardy that it still finds ways to sprout in the bare ground left behind by modern materialism. Somehow the material physical world has become distasteful to the educated people who hold the knowledge of power. The soiling of the hands with real matter is left to ignorant and unfortunate who either don’t know better, or are unable to rise up out of that condition.
Beyond that, it raises a more concrete problem. It leaves us asking how, if everyone is busy writing computer programs or assembling or managing banks of servers, who will manufacture the circuit boards, build the buildings that house them, or mine the coal and burn it to power those electronic machines?
Mike Rowe, co-creator and host of the Discovery Channel program, Dirty Jobs, addresses this whole question with eloquence and wit. Anybody that can actually talk about how they personally experienced a clear anagnoresis and parapeteia while castrating sheep is worth listening to.