Manual skills

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Title: Manual skills
Author: Rowland, Kevin
Abstract: The process of manual material manipulation is disappearing from daily life. Why is it that we still have an educational and social environment that does not put the same priority on practical and theoretical knowledge as is does on virtual academics? This disconnect is particularly poignant in a field such as design that should demand the mastery of both. As a modern nation, we have repressed manual skill and incremental learning by fostering an educational climate geared solely towards the desire for white-collar status. We base the accreditation of our grade schools on the rate of their college placement and that mentality carries over to society at large. This trend has been going on long enough that the students currently in college have no longer had the opportunity to witness their fathers or even their grandfathers doing something as simple as changing the oil in the family car. Traits of competency and creativity that might actually have been hereditary at one point in time have been repressed to the point that successive generations are not even aware of them. Students have not been exposed to the possibilities and honor contained within these activities. We have a generation and a half of people who exhibit no mastery of their stuff and we have students getting to their senior year of college before realizing that there is a creative outlet that makes use of the material intelligence they seek. They learn to tap threads in a hole at the age of twenty-one and I end up teaching middle school shop to college seniors. In the field of design, this lack of understanding carries over to the products created. Designers who don't make for themselves do not consider the values of object interaction that would be appreciated by an individual who makes. This results in crop after crop of products that help perpetuate a cycle of material unawareness, of waste and of limited development of the user/object relationship.
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Date: 2011

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