It is a very grave mistake for our society to marginalize the skills learned in shop class. They are as relevant today as they ever have been. When I was in middle school, the girls were automatically signed up for home economics and the boys signed up for shop. 

I wasn’t learning anything I didn’t already know in home ec, so I asked to be transferred to the shop class, which I attended for the next 2.5 years. I use the skills I learned in that shop class from Mr. Cox every single day of my life. 

To give a brief rundown of what I learned in shop: gas welding, brazing, arc welding, forging and grinding steel, tempering and hardening steel, casting iron, bending iron to make decorative wrought iron, sheet metal fabrication, electronics (we built radios and electric motors), tapping screws and threading screws. 

We disassembled a lawnmower engine and reassembled it. In the process learning how to adjust a carburetor, hone the cylinders, replace the rings, and size them correctly, and replace the gaskets. 

There may have been other things we learned in class but this is what I remember. It wasn’t just the skill to make these things, but the ability to analyze and problem solve, and just the simple understanding of how things work has been valuable.

It is at our peril that we don’t teach our children basic skills that includes home economics. Few parents are passing along these skills at home, perhaps because they don’t have these skills themselves. The STEM fields need people with these skills. 

Steve Jobs may have envisioned the design of the iPhone, but he needed people with the practical skills in building/construction and manufacturing in order for his ideas to be realized. 

The attempts by school boards to dismiss these classes, reminds me of a lesson I learned in my Theory of Architecture class while an architecture student. As the western world plunged into the Dark Ages (ca. 400- 900 AD), the recipe for concrete was ‘lost’. Not lost as in someone misplaced it, but the knowledge was lost — it wasn’t passed on. 

Concrete had been used by the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Romans. It wouldn’t be until the 18th century that a comparable recipe for concrete was realized again.

The inability to make concrete was the most significant factor which determined the change from large scale architectural buildings built by the Romans to heavy squat Romanesque architecture.

It has been to my everlasting dismay that there are no classes in home ec or shop, or any of the practical skills needed for life offered in District 96. So to the parents of Komarek and S.E, Gross, count yourselves lucky.

Jane Archer

Riverside