Monday, January 11, 2010

They should be teaching this stuff in school

I have a water leak under my house. I called a plumber to see if he’d come fix it and he said to me, “Whatsa matter? Can’t you fix it yourself?” Which got me thinking: When did plumbing become such a lucrative business that they could actually turn down work? And how can I sign up?

It’s sad being a grown man who can’t do simple things around the house like fix leaky pipes and lay new sewage lines – but it’s not all my fault. I choose to pass the blame to a broken education system that allowed me to graduate from high school and college without teaching me the difference between a flat-head screwdriver and the other kind.

For the past few years, the big talk has been about “No Child Left Behind” and standardized testing to ensure our students can compete on the global playing field, but I say we have made giant leaps backwards when our children can’t unclog a stopped-up toilet or build their own race car.

So, in order to put our children back on the right track, I propose that our government stop messing around with this other malarkey and adopt the CAPE standard of education – Carpentry, Auto-Mechanics, Plumbing and Electricity. And through it, our children will be honoring the men and women who brought us forth to this country to be self-sufficient and industrious, and not to be a bunch of lazy bones who can’t change an air conditioner filter without calling for help.

When the monsoon season hits and you discover you have a leaky roof, it does no good to know the Gross National Product of Peru. Yes, it’s fascinating to know coffee and bananas are what makes that country a global player, but who gives a rip about that when you have water dripping down the walls and making puddles on your linoleum?

Did Daniel Boone call the local roofing expert when HIS roof was leaking? Heck no. Since he probably built the house himself, he WAS the local roofing expert. Is there a better way to honor Daniel Boone than to teach our children how to tear off a roof and find those stubborn leaks with their own two hands? I don’t think so.

We all learned in grade school that Henry Ford, although he didn’t invent the automobile, was the father of the modern assembly line. But that doesn’t help us when our spark plugs get fouled or we need to pull an engine and replace it with a more powerful one that will propel us at speeds that give the local police heartburn.

Did Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, the Frenchman who invented the first steam-powered vehicle and is credited as the first person to get into a motor vehicle accident, did he take his “wounded” invention to the local body shop to have his axles straightened out? Of course not! And why should we? If our government made graduation dependent upon three years of auto-mechanics, we’d be honoring our automobile forefathers while making sure that we’d never be stranded on the side of the road, waiting for Triple A who might or might not be there in three hours.

Speaking about plumbing – why is it that every Roman schoolchild could build an aqueduct before they learned how to drive a chariot, but I can’t figure out why my shower is leaking or how to make it stop? It’s the school’s fault, I tell you, for not requiring me to learn it.

Instead of teaching our children how many cups make a quart, and how many quarts are in a gallon, our schools should teach them how to put PVC together so there aren’t any leaks. And if they can’t repair a burst water pipe without dripping solder on their work jeans, then maybe they should be held back a grade until they can.

And what about those ceiling fans that seem to have a short in them? Thank you Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison for all your work with electricity, but the average 7th grader can’t fix a loose connection if their life depended on it. Why? Because we spend too much time on learning dates, and not enough time on volts and amps. It’s shocking, to say the least.

Our forefathers were independent, self-sufficient people who might not be able to quote Shakespeare or Joyce, but they were able to erect a log cabin, build themselves a fire and field-dress a deer without looking in the phonebook for help. So we owe it to our ancestors to teach our children how to survive in this world. And if that means putting on a CAPE to get it done, then by jiminy, let’s do it.

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