What Happened to Shop Class?

This week is the first annual Get Woodworking Week set up by my good friend Tom Iovino of Tomsworkbench.com.  Often we talk about traditions and how we would like to have them carried on and this week in an opportunity to think about how we can get others involved with the woodworking we love and also get out there and get others in the shop.  There are many of my fellow woodworking bloggers writing fantastic articles this week, others inviting a friend to the shop, and some that just make an effort to get into the shop themselves.

This made me start thinking about how in days past even if you didn’t have a family member or other mentor to get you started in woodworking. We pretty much all had shop class.  For me it started in middle school.  In the 7th grade everyone had shop half of the school year and home economics the other half.  Boys and girls alike learned to build something along the lines of a bird house and how to use basic tools.  Of coarse we also learned how to use a sowing machine the rest of the year, I made stuffed football of our school colors…I think I still have it around somewhere?

In high school, shop was an elective class and to be honest most of us guys probably chose it to get out of the classrooms.  It was great to be able to spend and hour or so working with my hands and being in the shop.  I even entered in a carpentry contest against other schools and won 1st place in our region and competed at the state level.  I will never forget the night we came back from signing up for the state level, they gave us a set of plans that we would build the next day.  Mr. Orr my shop teacher asked if I wanted to build the project that night as a practice run or call it an evening as it was already getting late.  Like a lot of teenagers I was not exactly motivated and called it a night…..I have always regretted that decision.  I did ok the next day but could have done much better I am sure.

Many schools no longer have shop classes and that is a shame.  As a nation we seem to have forgotten the importance of being self-reliant and being able to build things with our own hands.  I am making it a goal to find a local shop class and see if there is anyway that I can help and get involved.  I hope that each of you will find your own way to get involved also.

For more on Get Woodworking Week and other participating sites visit Tom’s site at:   Tom’s Workbench









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11 Responses to “What Happened to Shop Class?”

  1. Don Clark
    February 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    I think there are a few reasons that come to mind for the disappearance of shop classes. Money is certainly one, but I think there is also a cultural shift away from skilled trades and vocational education and towards universities. One of the candidates this last election cycle said that not everyone needs to go to college, and they are 100% correct. Mike Rowe has recently championed the skilled trades and the shortfall that we have because of a shift away from valuing that type of work.

    All that comes to bear when school districts are faced with budget shortfalls and they try to decide what to keep and what to cut. Everyone is worried about cutting sports, but what is more important, making athletes or making the people that build the stadiums they play in?

    • highrockww
      March 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Don, thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree more. My wife is a teacher so I know first hand the cuts that are made. I won’t get into much of this hear but schools promote team sports that only select few can participate in and leave the rest to a growing rate of obestity in our teens.

      I follow Mike Rowe and love the work he is doing on this subject. I would love to have him on the Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast as this is a keep to what we promote…

  2. February 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    First, good posting, glad you wrote it. I also did the half year shop class/home ec in middle school. In ours, we got to make a few sheetmetal projects (using huge brakes and spot welders) and a wooden shelf. For that we used coping saws, counter-sunk screws, and some minwax stain. I forget what we made in home ec, except I couldn’t get the hang of the sewing machine to save my life. Thread running everywhere, nothing actually stitched together. Horrors. I did whip up a mean toaster oven pizza though, so in adulthood, I’ve stuck to the kitchen and avoided needles and sewing machines. I went to a Catholic High School and we had gym and religion class, but no shop classes or home ec.

    I don’t think my local middle or high school has shop class anymore, but I do know they have a largish teaching kitchen and a home ec teacher. I’ve taken a few adult-ed classes there.

    I’ve read “Shop Class as Soulcraft” a few times and find much of it interesting and some of it “Ivory Tower Philosophy Degree” waving, which is supposedly what the writer is arguing against. It’s worth the recommendation.

  3. pdxcraftsman
    February 14, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    Have you read “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work” – http://d.pr/eGIS

    • highrockww
      February 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      No, I have not read that but just looked it up and it looks very interesting. I will read it, thanks for the link.

      Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs spoke before congress on this subject. Here is the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NwEFVUb-u0

  4. Jacob Adams
    February 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    As a current shop teacher, I love your idea. I am one of the few still around my area. We always try to get people in to talk with our students, but it is never the same as someone coming in just to help.

    Keep up the great ideas.

    • highrockww
      February 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks for doing what you do Jacob.

  5. February 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Shop class created some of the best memories for me in High School. It’s a shame they are disappearing. Great article.

    • highrockww
      February 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

      Thanks Tim and yes it is a shame. But it also seems to be a trend in this nation that vocational arts are no longer taught.

  6. February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I love the idea of finding a shop class and offering your assistance! I might have to try this out myself!

    • highrockww
      February 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Brian, if you do please let me know how it goes.

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