Tom Waits had it about right in “What’s He Building in There?” The song—it’s on his 1999 album Mule Variations—is told from the point of view of someone who is curious about the noises emanating from the house next door. And while the song is more of a study in suburban anxiety— “he has a router and a table saw and you won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw” —Waits does hit one other nail on the head (as it were): people with a creative bent have long used garages or extra rooms as workshops.

Years ago, the skills needed to transform a block of wood, strip of leather or chunk of metal were taught in junior-high and high-school shop classes. Popular Mechanics still dedicates pages to do-it-yourself projects like a spice rack that can be completed on a weekend afternoon by anyone with a few tools and some basic knowledge. (Others, such as how to build a backyard smoker, require more time and specialized tools.)

But tool skills don’t seem to be as important anymore. In Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Matthew B. Crawford traces the shift to an “educational regime (that) is based on a certain view about what kind of knowledge is important: ‘knowing that’ as opposed to ‘knowing how.’”

Crawford is writing about the American system, but his insights apply to Canada. The privileging of “knowing that” over “knowing how” means that many will never feel the sense of satisfaction that comes from turning out a finished product with one’s own hands.

But people are catching on. The Maker movement elevates tinkering and craftsmanship. Many people who didn’t learn the skills at school are turning to YouTube videos and online forums to absorb the nuances of craft. No place to work and no tools to …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

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