February 16, 2024
My last posting may have left you thinking I was anti-intellectual. Far from it; my point is that education is fundamentally different than training. Training teaches you to perform a task while education prepares you to appreciate many things not required to do your “work.” Some jobs, like the brain surgeon in my joke, require some of each. To saw open a skull and fix things you need tremendous self confidence, a thorough knowledge of the human body, and incredible manual dexterity. That dexterity comes from lots and lots of practice and a surgeon has to protect his hands above all. During my time in Traverse City, I met an oral surgeon who loved woodworking. He could not risk his hands playing with woodworking tools, however, and would “sub-contract” his sawing and fitting work to my mentor in all things “wood,” Don Goodland. The Doc could go on for hours about furniture design and finishes but he never cut a board or drilled a hole himself. In exchange, Don never pulled teeth. The trouble with education is that much of it is wasted on the young. A person needs job skills to earn their way in the world; after a few years of developing and exercising those skills, though, you crave an understanding of why things work the way they do. Or you find a hobby or avocation that fills your thoughts and brings you pleasure. No one has to be a “one trick pony!” People are not insects that have to specialize in one particular task; you can be a house painter and play in a band. Too much emphasis is placed on finding your perfect occupation and too little on living a fulfilling life. Resist “typecasting” with all your might. My best process engineers started off as machine operators or inspectors. A craftsman I greatly admire has a degree in art history and was a standout assembly line supervisor. When politicians boast of attracting a manufacturing plant with 10,000 jobs I worry about the mental health of those consigned to “worker bee” status.