Shop Class VS College...some interesting long term findings

I just finished a very interesting book…It’s title is…

Shop Class As Soulcraft

It was written by a PHD and fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Univ. Of Virginia.

In the book the author writes about how Americans no longer want their children doing MANUAL WORK…They would rather have them be KNOWLEDGE WORKERS…Highly specialized experts in very specific fields.

The Problem with this, he contends…is…We are creating a generating that is completely INCAPABLE of doing ANYTHING for themselves.

He mentions that SEARS at one time STOCKED schematics for all the appliances they sold…It was ASSUMED that people would want technical info on their appliances should they ever need repair. Years ago most people were completely capable of replacing a broken switch or belt. Now a days…They don’t even offer the drawings because it’s easier to just DIAL THE PHONE and call a repairmen.

This reminded me of two friends I had in high school…The first one goes to College and gets a technical degree in Mechanical Engineering…He is constantly moved from one State to another as his company sees fit. He eventually losses his job due to the economy and can no longer find work in his career because new college grades don’t bitch about moving, and work for HALF his salary.

The other friend became a mechanic…He went to work for a Porsche dealer right out of high school. He was cross trained in Audi repair also.
This guy went on to earn NO LESS than $100,000+/ year after just 5 years working at this Porsche/Audi dealer. His commute was 10 minutes. He could make his own schedule based on the amount and type of repair work being done at the dealership each day…AND…He built himself an extremely profitable side business repairing OLDER Porsches that the dealership didn’t have time for. This guy owned a custom built home on 10 acres of land with a beautiful fully equiped shop right in his back yard. His house was paid off in 12 years and he continues to repair old Porsches and work at the dealership…He has NEVER been laid off or out of work…His EXPERIENCE is prized by the dealer because there is very little he HASN’T seen over the years.

Another interesting example…

The Plumber that gets $100/hour… was PAID to learn his profession.

The Lawyer that gets paid $250/hour…Had to PAY $150,000 to get his education. He comes out of law school BURIED IN DEBT.

The plumber drives a pickup truck…The Lawyer must drive a luxury car or his clients view him as LESS of a lawyer. The lawyer also must belong to expensive country clubs to maintain business contacts.

The plumber BUILT his own house…The LAWYER had to HIRE the plumber to build his in an UPSCALE “executive” neighborhood.

The plumber can fix almost ANYTHING that breaks in his home or on his boat, or in his VACATION home that he purchased cheap because the plumbing was shot. The lawyer PAYS people to do this for him.

It’s an interesting topic. Obviously there are lawyers that make MILLIONS every year and can afford to pay for ANYTHING they want…
BUT…The MAJORITY are NOT in that league.

We are taking SHOP CLASSES OUT OF SCHOOLS in this country. They are being replaced by COMPUTER CLASSES…(because they can JAM 50 kids in a computer class. while a shop class is considered DANGEROUS and limited to 15 kids)

If we REALLY want to get back to PRODUCING THINGS in THIS COUNTRY…We better start TEACHING our kids HOW TO BUILD THINGS!!!

Very interestng post…

I have seen this first-hand in the construction industry as well as in my personal life… you would be AMAZED at how many kids are challenged when it comes to actual problem-solving and figuring things out for themselves… can they figure out how to get to the next level on a video game? Absolutley!.. but ask them to change a tire on a bike, or a chain, or the brake pad, and their response is it’s time to get a new bike…

This happened to me recently, and I was like, so you want to just junk the whole $200 bike (yes, $200)and get a new one rather than learn how to replace a part? He didn’t say yes, but I could tell by the look on his face, it was more like - “what’s the big deal? I don’t WANT to learn how to do that.”.

My sister and I were reminiscing our childhood recently, and we remember taking a loaf of bread, making P&J sandwhiches (with peanut butter on both sides to avoid jelly soak through) and putting them back into the bag, stuff them in a paper bag, along with the gallon of lemon-aide in the old milk container (hey, I guess we were recyclers early on :biggrin), and heading out to the woods FOR THE DAY!

We didn’t WAIT for our parents to buy a “kit” to make a clubhouse, we did it OURSELVES… We would find wood from different places, de-nail 2 x 4’s and plywood, and made our OWN clubhouse WITHOUT anyone telling us HOW to do it… we figured it our for ourselves… and we had a BLAST doing sleepovers… we had a door and a window, and it was OURS…

In our generation, we used to be called home by our parents, and not on a cell phone or by text, but either by the street light going on, or you hearing your parents bellowing voice across the neighborhood or a phone call to your friends house… in this generation, parents have a hard time even getting their kids OUT THE DOOR in the first place…

You both make some very good points. In regards to Jake’s posting… an old friend of mnine’s father-in-law is a master mechanic for toyota. He never attended college and learned to be a mechanic in the military. The Toyota dealership he works for has paid to send him to Toyota to learn how to work on the Prius engines and he makes $55.00 an hour before over-time at which point he makes $82.50 an hour. That breaks down to over 100K a year before overtime. He does NOT work week-ends unless he wants to, and he also has a great workshop at home where he works on cars for friends and family for cash. He is one of the nicest people I know. Just a good ol’ boy from east Texas. If I had it to do all over again I would have not taken the college prepatory route in high school and would have done the vocational training to be an auto mechanic. Not because I want to be an auto mechanic, but because what I did not know at the time was that in Ohio at that time state schools were required to admit you if you had at least a C average NO MATTER what you studied. So I still could have gone to college and I would have also had a marketable skill.

In regards to Positive’s posting. I too find it very difficult to get my kids to go outside and play. We have a pool and a basketball sport court in our backyard and the only time they want to use it is if i go outside with them. They would rather sit in the media room and play Call of Duty:Modern Warfare for 6-8 hours a day. I have started taking the XBOX360 power cord to work with me each day so they HAVE to find something else to do.

I’m only 24 so I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle of what you guys are discussing, I’m part of the first “video game” generation, but most people my age arent quite as hyped up and hooked into those things as the kids 7-10 years younger than me are.

It’s definetely an interesting discussion either way, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve thought MANY times, “man, I wish I had spent more time with my dad learning how to change brakes, or how to build a door frame, fix a leaky toilet, etc.” I used to be so bored walking through hardware stores with him, thinking what a waste of time it was. Then I grew up, started a family, bought rental property, and now I love browsing the aisles of hardware stores! It’s amazing what a difference a few years can make! I personally believe there needs to be a balance between MANUAL work and KNOWLEDGE work. I’m not gifted mechanically, so I’m never going to be a Porsche mechanic, but it IS important that I know how to change a tire, oil, brake pads, the basics, you get the idea.

great post…

it’s a sad state…

I can still remember the joy of being in Industrial Arts/Woodworking class.

Being good with your hands sharpens one’s intellect.


First let me just say, I am one of those kids who couldnt tell you the difference between a nut and a bolt. Im not a mechanic, and even though I know I should probably know how to do that stuff, I wasnt raised around it and I have no desire to do that kind of work. All of my friends are the same way. Its deffinetly true, my generation just flat out doesnt want to do mechanic work.

(I roof often, im not a wuss, well… kinda not… just clarifying :slight_smile: )

This is my experience in shop class in school. Its a joke. Ive went to two HS’s, and both shop classes are pretty much (nail this there, drill that there ,thats it), not even worth having the class. If were going to have true shop classes, they need to teach things like ohh i dont know… changing a tire or break pads.

Were never going to change the lifestyle of American families, so the only option is to teach kids mechanic basics through school, and schools need to do a better job.


I know what you mean!! When I was a kid I’d get up, have breakfast, grab my fishing pole, a sandwich and my mother would see me when the street lights came on.

We also built our own soap box racers out of old Big Wheels. We’d scour the neighborhood on trash day looking for the prized REAR WHEELS off broken Big Wheels. If you were lucky enough to find 2 you had everything you needed to rip up the nearest hilly street!! We’d pry the cap nut off the end of the axle, slide it out then grab a 2X6. A couple of nails bent over across the axles and some rope tied to the front one…BINGO…Instant FUN for HOURS!!! (the key to the front axle was placing the nails NEXT to each other in the center of the 2X6 so you could steer!!!)

My brother and I built the first one by trial and error…Within months the entire street was crawling with racers everynight.

I learned how to do brake jobs because I didn’t have the money to pay someone to do it FOR ME. I haven’t paid for a brake job in 30 years. If I added up all that saved money (just from brake jobs) It would probably amount to a nice down payment on a home for someone.

It amazes me how HELPLESS most people are today.

I just read an article in MONEY magazine about a couple that makes $144,000/ year but are struggling because they spent $175,000 rehabbing their $200,000 home. They now have a $375,000 mortgage and both are MUSIC TEACHERS!! Maybe if hubby learned how to screw cabinets to a wall they wouldn’t have spent $59,000 re-doing their kitchen. It’s not like music teachers don’t have summers off. :banghead

Mind boggling.


I am with you. I love walking around Lowes and HD and looking at all the stuff. I never thought I would see the day when a power sprayer was at the top of my wish list.

I guess we appreciate this stuff because people like us appreciate what can be ACCOMPLISHED with these tools. A well designed, well built tool is a marvel. It can last a lifetime with minimal care and be passed on for generations to come…I still have my grandfathers snap-on tools. These things are beautifully made, easy to hold, perfectly balanced. They make WORKING an enjoyable experience.

We’re teaching our kids NOTHING these days. There’s REAL value in doing something yourself just because you can do it!! The pleasure of sitting in a chair YOU built!

I build furniture as a hobby…It’s very relaxing to me…The end result is valuable, not for it’s monetary worth but because of the STORY it tells about the builder. Each piece is different because different problems had to be solved to complete it. These small hand created solutions are where the TRUE value lies. It’s looking at a finely crafted joint, or carved surface that reminds you of building that item.

It’s funny…My eye STILL goes to these small areas of a piece everytime I enter a room. It’s the part of the build that you remember.
The memory is what has real value.

I started messing with cars when I was about 11. My best friend is 5 yrs older than me so I’d help him with his projects. I’ve saved a bunch of money over the years by doing things myself. The only way I could afford the cars I had in high school was to fix them myself. It also gave me appreciation for the cars. Yes I had fun in them, but I didn’t routinely beat the hell out of them because I was paying for them and fixing them if I tore them up.
I know what you mean about education vs. experience, but my degree allowed me to earn a good living by flying. I’m thankful I finished and only racked up about 30k in debt by the time I was done.
I remember doing things as a kid that there’s no way I’d let my kids do now. I used to hop on my bike and ride out in the country for hours. I couldn’t imagine my kids doing that, but we live in a much different area than where I grew up. I enjoyed video games as a kid and have played them while on deployment, but I simply don’t have time for that when I’m home. All of our kids have Nintendo DS’s. Our oldest daughter runs hers dead and then wants to use the other ones until they’re dead too. I can’t imagine being an adult that doesn’t want to do anything buy play video games, but I’ve known some people like that.
Hoosier: My high school’s shop class built a couple houses in town. They did that when I was still in grade school (unfortunate for me as I would have enjoyed that), but in recent years have also built sheds/greenhouses/etc. One year they contracted to build about 10 sheds and sold them to people.
Christopher: I bought the Graco LTS17 sprayer for $399 from Lowe’s a few months ago. We sprayed the inside of our foreclosure with it. Works great and is SIMPLE to clean up. It has a threaded fitting where you hook up a garden hose to it for cleaning. The model I got was the best compromise for price vs. capacity for me. I love the sprayer and will close on a house tomorrow that needs sprayed (textured walls).

I think guys should learn basic vehicle maintenance. I enjoy working on my own stuff and it’s valuable to know when a shop is trying to blow smoke about expensive repairs. I make a good living and still change the oil in all my cars.

Its also important to remember that people DO have different talents/“geniuses” in different types of areas. The guy that specializes in custom cabinetry has a different type of “genuis” than the guy who programs websites.
I wouldn’t say one skill is necessarily better than another skill, I truly believe that humans are just hardwired to be good at different things! I’m certainly not skilled at being handy at fixing things, I’ve really had to work and learn by trial and error to even learn simple building skills. On the other hand, I have GREAT people skills when it comes to dealing with, negotiating, coordinating, whatever! Again, not bad, just different…

I can honestly say I’ve experienced both sides. I took Metal shop in high school. I learned to fabricate, weld and cut steel. I also learned to fabricate duct work and sheet metal. Every year, the “shop kids” built an entire house from the ground up. Carpentry, electrical, HVAC, etc… That was a great experience. I got a job while still in high school from our “co-op” program. It was a small structural steel company. It was the hardest work I’ve done in my life and made $4/hr. I remember asking mu guidance counselor about computers (it was 1985). He said nobody will ever make any money in computers! :shocked :biggrin. After 7 yrs. and being laid off repeatedly, I decided to go to college. That was also very difficult because I had’nt taken any prep classes. So far I’ve a LOT more in healthcare than I ever could in structural steel, but I don’t work nearly as hard as I did back then. It’s a different kind of “hard work” with more on the line. I learned things along the way. Some because I wanted to. Some because I had to. But the schools won’t teach this stuff unless there were jobs out there to hire these kids. The kids won’t take these jobs unless they can make more money somewhere else. I think its important for us to teach our kids how to be self sufficient IF and I mean IF, they want to learn. Learning to do things yourself takes a lot of work & patience. The best we can do is lead by example and try to find a way to show them the benefits of DYI.

Your point is a good one…

College is literally worth it’s weight in GOLD…Having a good education gives you CHOICES…Having NO EDUCATION severely limits your choices.

I guess my point in the post was being WELL ROUNDED is actually PRICELESS…Having the ability to earn a living using your HEAD and your HANDS is probably the best of both worlds. By that I mean having the ability to work with your hands should your other job suddenly dissappear.

This is why it is so important to spend your college years LEARNING something other than things written in BOOKS. I framed houses for a few summers while I went to school…I’m REALLY glade I don;t have to do it for a living…But what I learned those summers has literally saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just knowing HOW buildings are BUILT is priceless in this business. If you understand this NO CONTRACTOR has a shot in hell of BSing you on a price or the work involved.

I guess I could have spent my summers delivering pizza’s…But it wouldn’t have helped me much in real estate investing.

I hear ya’ FDJake. Learning how to do things yourself is an important skill. Sometimes its tough to do when you’re faced with changing technology. Some things are made to be disposable or too expensive to fix. But luckily there are still a lot of things I can teach my sons when they get old enough. My 6 yr.old son kept buggin’ me to put his Transformers together. Those things can be real pain in ass to put together even with the instructions. I finally told him that he can’t do it himself, he won’t get any more of them. I thought he would just give up and find something else. A week later, he figured out how to read and follow the instructions! I told him how proud i was. I also told him that kind of attitude will take him far when he grows up. He thinks that adults already know everything and need to learn. I told him people need to keep learning their whole life. He was shocked. Its funny how a kid’s mind works. I’m hoping to teach them that they won’t always have the answers but they can find them if they really want to. I know I’m rambling on but I just hope that the next generation will know how to use their heads AND their hands. That has to start at home and hopefully it sticks…

The plumbers and electricians I know are all doing quite well for themselves…

“The plumbers and electricians I know are all doing quite well for themselves…”

Ain’t that the truth…

My HVAC guy is working round the clock right now for all the customers he has waiting for him. I have to stay on top of him so he squeezes me into his busy schedule for furnace tuneups, etc…The reason he’s so busy is that the guy knows darn near EVERYTHING there is to know about HVAC. He’s REALLY good at what he does, and he’s fairly priced, so when he works for somebody, word of his business spreads like WILDFIRE! (plus he’s just an all around good guy) It’s a great model for success, that is, being the best at one particular thing, YOUR NICHE, and doing it better than almost everybody else.

The ones I know are making more than I do in my white collar job. Go figure.


You just hit the nail on the head.

Americans want their kids to go to COLLEGE because they ASSUME that will lead to a good job, better income, and a good career. It’s BULLSH*T. As ALWAYS people just FOLLOW the HERD. They get in line and do what the guy in front of them is doing. I honestly believe that this gives people a “way out” if things go bad. They can point to the masses and say…“Hey, we all made the same mistake.”

Out of the 10 or so millionaires I personally know…2 of them have college degrees. And those 2 aren’t going ANYTHING even remotely related to their college training. They made their $$$$ in Real Estate, or Construction, or the Automobile business.

I think the college degree will increase the means to become rich. But I think it’s less about a college dergree and more about gaining the educaton to make money. Wether you become a plumber, Framer, Banker or a Doctor. This country is very good at providing the eduaction to get good jobs that make money. But its the education that most millionares have to not only KEEP their money, but to direct their money to create more money. After all, you can only physically work so many hours to earn money. But money is a tireless worker because it has the ability to multiply over and over when put to work! That kind of knowledge is not very common and is not taught as often as it should. In my opinion. Financial educaton like that should be part of a high school course requirement.