Anaheim City School District, Wood Shop Class. Circa 1960s.

Shop Teachers – the First ‘Non-essential’ Worker

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WOG’s 2 Cents – Column by Brian D. King

At the risk of being accused of virtue signaling, I want to point out two things.

I can’t go through a day without someone tagging me or sending me a private message with a meme, video, or article on the importance of offering the trades and life-skills in schools.

Yet back in 2001, everyone was quiet when No Child Left Behind became law and the states and school districts gave shop teachers letters stating we were non-essential. Non-essential teachers. Does non-essential sound familiar from the plandemic in 2020? So the shops were determined to be non-essential and were liquidated to make room for classes on test prep. To make things worse, school administrators and test prep teachers managed to convince students and their parents that learning the trades made the boys ‘less than.’

It is ironic that to fight World War II we built airplanes, tanks, jeeps, trucks, communication systems, and weapon systems by those who “only” had a high school education. They learned machine shop, auto shop, pattern making, and drafting in high school. The shops I learned in were built by the Work Progress Administration in the 1930s; FDR believed learning those skills would get our country back on its feet.

Fast forward to 1961, JFK challenged us to enter the space race. To that end, he supported new industrial arts shops.

High School Shop Class, Circa 1950s.

History repeats itself and we successfully fought the Cold War with high school graduates with skills learned in machine shop and drafting; most armed with no more than slide rules to compute with. We were victorious, in part, because we out-resourced our enemy due to our students being well-prepared.

But in the 1990s, the media was fear mongering that our students were not doing as well on standardized tests as Asian students. In the real world, how important was doing better on those tests? Standardized tests teach students there is only one correct answer to any given problem, which is not a good practice. To me, the important fact was we were great at designing intellectual property, and China was great at making knockoffs of our intellectual property

Shop class in Chattooga. Photo courtesy of Greg W. McCollum, Chattooga Photo History, circa 1970.

In 2002, I told the State Superintendent of Education that high school was going to become an “infomercial for getting a student loan.” In reality, boys were channeled into college majors in which they had no interest. Many did not complete those majors and they either did not have the ability to pay off the student loans, or they chose not to; all unplanned consequences of closing the shops in schools and laying off the teachers who taught the trades.

We would not be in this predicament today if those driven by fear to terminate shop teachers fought to have the kids in their community learn the trades.