By Scott Johnson, Canada
My name is Scott Johnson and up until 6 years ago I worked in the building trades both being an apprentice and then teaching apprentices. My last 5 years of work involved helping build online courses at a small college in North East Alberta, Canada. A year ago the Provincial Government here cut funding to education and my job disappeared. Given that trades education hasn’t changed over the almost 50 years since I began working I’m not sure why I persist…
It was never my intention to become a teacher or be associated with education. My experience with “school” (that’s what I’ll call it) was not good, but what can you do in life without learning some things? School’s all about that, right? Anyway growing up with teachers, professors and all kinds of professional people as neighbors, it seemed natural that school was where I too could learn cool things that made me interesting and capable like them.
Except, school wasn’t about that. It was a closed system of rules and structure invented to present a world that could fit inside a school. It was orderly, lessonized and so important to itself that you could actually fail school and be blamed for being stupid. Lucky for me I had smart parents who taught me how to extract information from the world—what I wanted from school and couldn’t get.
There are a number of reasons why I struggled and they can go on another list later. But I think the urge to build models of every possible event or skill or understanding flattens the life out everything. It’s a kind of design madness that loses touch with all except itself. As if the whole world was made complete by one understanding and then made diverse by replicating itself.
So, truth is, I was in the wrong place for my needs, yet managed to graduate high school and have spent the rest of my life picking at the edge of education. The thing is it may not suit someone to accept the world as made by others. Even in their best intentions, the directions of others may lead down a path to an empty house, an unsuitable solution or just not “work” in spite of 90% of the population getting a “B” on it.
My path lead to the building trades and a great many errors I discovered by reflection and listening without the need to be on the defensive. The teaching came in as I worked training employees for my own small companies and also apprentices in a number of trades. There’s no training for this, it just happens because you make it happen with the help of those you yourself are training. Maybe this is just silly to people in institutionalized education but you can’t let go of who matters for convenience or productivity.