The Case for Working with Your Hands

My buddy Mike passed on this excellent article from the NYT, extolling the virtues of working with one's hands. It encapsulates, exactly, my feelings I experienced every day as a High School teacher and how I feel now as an office worker/late night crafter. Here's an excerpt, but do yourself a favor and click over to read the whole thing.

"High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses."


  1. This opinion is shared in Boys Adrift by Dr.Leonard Sax, where he writes about the epidemic lack of skilled labor in America and speaks further on the emasculation of our boys.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. It's so reassuring to hear the voice of reason once in a while.
    Similar thing happening in Australia - lack of tradies while the government bangs on about upping the school leaving age... again.

    The article reminded me of the scene in Gran Torino where the Clint Eastwood character buys the boy some tools.
    Perhaps we just need to clone Clint before it's too late ....

  3. I don't know about cloning Clint. He is, afterall, the man who outlawed ice cream and frisbee when he was mayor of Carmel, CA. I do know, however, that we need to stop encouraging kids who aren't built for college to go to college. We need to stop making teenagers go to school at 7AM. We need to stop making kids sit and listen to lecture for 90 minute periods and we need to, above all, nurture those kids who want to work with their hands and instill a sense of pride, not embarassment, about their passion. Working with your hands is NOT a cop out, it's a CRAFT.

  4. I am happy to say that work on bikes, bang hammer and dig in the dirt with my boys and girls.

    I know we are doing alright when I see dirt under their fingernails in church. :D

  5. This issue is so dear to my heart, especially as recently I have been contemplating getting a 'real job' what ever that means. Working with my hands as a self-employed shoemaker, I always perceived that I had somehow opted out of regular-salaried-employment-proper-grownup-stuff, but my mother mentioned to me that she really respects the fact that I am creative and have a craft and can work with that daily to make ends meet. It meant a lot to hear that.
    I was the only girl still doing tech studies after year 10 in high school, my brain just works better in 3D, problem solving and lateral thinking, blood sweat and tears baby!

  6. Thanks for the comments Tim and Emma!

    Emma - Your stuff is so beautiful, it would be a crime if you chucked it for a "real job". Your skill and craftsmanship is so stunning to me. It's gorgeous and fascinating and I don't really understand how it works, but I do know that the world would be a little less beautiful if you became a cubicle worker.