Sunday, September 7, 2008

Are Americans Losing Their DIY Skills?

Um, yes? Is this news? Not specifically bicycle-related, but this article from Popular Mechanics is very much in keeping with what this blog is really all about.

I think that a modicum of ability in dealing with the physical world is good even for those of us whose jobs are mostly cerebral. Engineer Vannevar Bush, one of the great minds of the 20th century, made his mark on everything from the Manhattan Project to the development of computers. But when he wasn’t commanding vast enterprises, Bush spent a lot of time in his basement workshop building things. He said that trying to make a finished project match his blueprints taught him humility and problem solving.

I'll second that with a vengeance. Especially the humility part.

5 comments:

  1. I agree and I think they hit on a couple of the reasons in the article but missed on several more. Today's children are overscheduled for everything from school, play dates, sports, parties you name it. I think another thing that has come into play is that manual labor has lost it's value in this country in particular. People want to purchase everything for the cheapest price, and I know that I can't live on Chinese laborer wages! Yet another contributing factor IMHO is the non repairablity of today's products. Every tried to get repair parts for any house hold item? It is almost impossible to repair a blender, toaster or any other small appliance as well as many larger ones. I was told parts were no longer available for a 9 year old dishwasher. I tore it down and discovered the problem was a bad gasket, made a couple of new ones and it is still chugging along just fine a couple years later.

    The industry I work in is very much a hands on requiring a certain amount of technical expertise. Our crews are aging rapidly and we are only replacing retirees at the rate of 3:1 (1 suitable new hire for every 3 that retires) Not sure what the answer is, but to keep on training and hope for the best.

    Aaron

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  2. Hah! My eyes skipped the first part of this quotation and landed on... "when he wasn’t commanding vast enterprises, Bush spent a lot of time in his basement workshop building things. He said that trying to make a finished project match his blueprints taught him humility and problem solving."

    Ha ha ha ha! Wrong Bush! Snurk!

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  3. An old piece of Christina instruction: Make it you ambition to mind to your affairs, to live a simple life, and to work with your hands.

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  4. Aaron, I refer to this as the decline of "durable technology." It's one reason I find working on old bikes so attractive, the basic technology of a bicycle has not changed for over a century, and likely will not change dramatically in the next century. Not only are the parts themselves durable, the concept behind them has lasting value.

    RB, yeah, GW Bush isn't so much with the humility *or* the problem solving skills!

    Tom, if only more people would imbibe this message, we would find ourselves in a very different world, I think.

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  5. I pride myself on being somewhat handy, and have learned all kinds of weird things over the years. Especially since owning my own home - poverty is the mother of invention. Fixing up my old bike was frustrating, especially since I had no idea what I was doing, but now I know all kinds of things about old one speed bikes! I find it really rewarding to bring something back to life that may have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

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