A Practical Crisis

Ham Radio. Computing. Woodcraft. Homemade Electronics. Photography. Model Trains. Model Ship Building. This is a list of the many hobbies in which my grandfather immersed himself. Not only did he have many hobbies, but he was accomplished at quite of few. He knew how to work with his hands and how to build things. When my dad was young, he built his own speakers. My uncle is serious model plane maker.

I've always admired my grandfather's enthusiasm for these hobbies. However, I never picked up on his ability to work with his hands. I am a poor craftsman and have less of a knowledge of the tech I use than I'd like. I am also concerned that my children may find themselves even farther removed from the hands-on. This is a serious problem.

In Wired, Clive Thompson crystallizes this issue in this article about the loss of hands-on skills. According to Thompson, this skill gap is resulting in a paucity of innovation. Instead of creating a technical work-around to improve gas mileage, we use a theoretical approach. He also relates this problem to the lack of concern about our crumbling infrastructure. If we had a better understanding of how the world works - how bridges and roads can decay - we might be more worried about it (Related post here).

However, he also writes about a nascent movement to return to our technical roots. He points to Make magazine as an example. I would also point to the popularity of the Lego Mindstorms as another example. The Mindstorms is an awesome toy, helping to teach both mechanical and programming skills (which we also lack link).

As I posted before, I've started to try to do my part to address this. However, I am somewhat hampered in my ability to teach my sons how to get hands-on because my skills are so underdeveloped. We are learning together.

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