Like Mike Rowe, I don't suppose to speak for the working man. I speak for myself and all those like me who are addicted to toilets that flush and roofs that don't leak.
Mike's presentation to the house on the subject of trades and work is one of the great and most inspiring oratories of the internet age.
Here's Mike explaining the experience and what inspired him to speak out.
Today the PC party of Nova Scotia presented an idea to bring vocational training back into schools in a meaningful way. It's their first publicly presented idea since I became involved and, though I didn't play a part on the development of the initiative, it's something I can really get behind.
Work is the fundamental way most of us relate to the world. To prepare us to work, to earn a living, and contribute to our self-support, our families, our communities and to the world, is one of the core goals of a good education.
It's also something that's lost its way as the nature and value of work changes profoundly in our lifetimes.
I've always been interested in Adm. HG Rickover's views on education and work. Rickover was the sole manager behind the building of the first nuclear submarine Nautilus. He moved nuclear science from a destructive bomb, to a usable power plant, to a submarine that sailed under the north pole in about four years. And he did it without a single accident or loss of life. He did it by assembling and managing the greatest and most well educated team of workers in history. Then he spent the rest of his life explaining how he did it and championing the importance of work, effort and education.
Here's what the Admiral said about vocational training as part of a good education:
To earn a living. This can be learned in school or out, and at any level from humble work to highly paid, professional skills. Each of us needs to feel, sometime in life, that his services are important enough so that someone other than the welfare department is willing to pay to keep him alive. Those who have never proved their usefulness remain forever at a disadvantage, because work is the basic way which most of us relate to the world.
It does seem that many of us have become disconnected from work, from mechanical thoughts, ideas and activity. It's not surprising. The western world has de-industrialized. Most of our stuff, our mechanical stuff, is disposable, not meant to be repaired or modified. Certainly not to be tinkered with. As the labels say - NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE or WARRANTY VOID IF BACK IS REMOVED. Add to that the endless government rules and regulations that outlaw mechanical thoughts, modifications and adaptions, supported by insurance and banking industries to ensure big corporations can monopolize sales, parts, and service and that bought goods are the only option available to solve most problems that could be viewed creatively and diversely with our ideas and labour.
The Admiral speaks to something we all know. Work is not just for the worker. We need great plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, mechanics, gardeners, painters welders, and trades of all kinds. Without great dependable, accessible workers we all suffer. And anyone who's tried to find a contractor or handyperson knows... we are suffering. As with all the economic issues of the age - the poor, the most vulnerable, the aging, and those with the least access to family, friends, and capital suffer the most.
In fact, little of what most of us do for a living would be described as "work' by our grandparents. The words have stayed the same but the baseline of the task has shifted so much that it's possible historians will look back and call this age "The End Of Work". And yet we know in our hearts that it takes tinkerers, modifiers, builders, and changers, to create the future.
It's lamentable. And it's problematic if, like me and Mike, you're addicted to toilets that flush and roofs that don't leak. We need smart, engaged, strong and innovative people to do a lot of work. In his epic garage this mechanic speaks eloquently on the importance of knowing about screwdrivers and how machines work.
So we've relegated vocational training to higher education. A system where we loan money we don't have to children who can't afford to pay it back after spending years training for jobs that disappear.
Worse, we destructively define people and work. Gender, racial, cultural, by looks and by intelligence we start early and push people away from and towards certain work. It's gotta stop. Anyone who wants to be, and puts forward the effort, can be a great carpenter or electrician. Anyone can have ideas. Everyone can help.
A better way would be if we all learned early an appreciation for the work... a cultivated appreciation that we care about about early in life that creates an environment and culture that respects work, craftsmanship and mechanical thoughts.
I'll call it the front porch index of prosperity.
If you look at old pictures of city streets and country farm houses you'll easily see a level of detail, craftsmanship and customization in the porches of the nation that is astonishing. Porches had distinct styles, designs, and movements. First and foremost they were sturdy and useful. Then they reflected the values of the owners - the household. Today our porches are regulated to incredible degrees by government and almost never thought of at all by those householders who should be most interested and responsible.
Our porches are awful cookie cutter, built to the rules, bland and weak affairs. We just don't care much. And this line of thought continues in through the front door and through most of the mechanical and built parts of out lives.
Not only should we support vocational education we should get interested, get informed and form opinions. We should all have an idea of what makes a great porch, or beautiful roof, or innovative electrical or plumbing system. These are things we shouldn't deffer to government. And through this knowledge and interest we can cultivate not just workers but stars - everyday people doing the extraordinary.
There's lots of work to be done.
Prosperity, in it's fullest measure will follow.
Our chronic shortage of great engineers, designers, contractors, carpenters, and trades of all sort is the result of opportunity missed and time wasted in public schools. We can do better.
There's a lot of work to be done.
Our best education and economic development will consider the needs of those we educate and the needs of the community. Everyone wants to be useful. Everyone wants to be needed.
There's lots of work to be done.
In writing this I'm thinking a lot about the mechanically minded people I knew growing up and some the amazing self-reliant people I've met in my life. To me they are heroes and always have been. They are the ones who've solved the problems, fixed the things that were broken and came up with solutions. The tinkerers, the fixers, the take-it-apart-ers, the Macgyvers. The older I get the more I value them in my life and in the community. You can see many of them among my Fbook friends and there are more who just don't have time to share digitally what they are doing with their digits. Amazing.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.