05 September 2006

In favour of craft-based education

A recent piece by Matthew B Crawford, writing in The New Atlantis provides a spirited case for craft-based education. He argues for the importance of making in education and culture:

"Perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are, and whether they don’t, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work."

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In Shop Class as Soulcraft he provides a well argued case for 'shop class' (to use a US term) citing Braverman (whose Labor and Monopoly Capital, pictured above, remains a critical text in this field) and Marx is an essay which makes key points about both the degradation of blue-collar and white-collar work. Many of the arguments reflect those coming from the 'new' craft activitists / DIYers, but rooted in an analysis of work in a more Marxist sense.

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