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May 31, 2007

HANDS-ON TOYS FOR BOYS (AND GIRLS!): My earlier post on hands-on toys seem to have generated some interest, and there are still lots of cool things that will get kids away from the PlayStation and encourage them to do a few things with their hands. Something that was big in my childhood: The Estes model rockets, which are still around, and still fun, safe, and cheap. (Infinitely safer than building your own rockets from scratch, too: I did that and escaped unscathed, but I know a guy whose matchhead-and-scuba-tank rocket leveled his house and cost him some fingers. In fact, I think the impetus for the Estes-style model rockets was to provide a safe alternative to homemade pyrotechnics.)

In response to my earlier post on hands-on skills, Martin Greenberger emails:

Boy can I second the lack of basic skills in adults. I volunteer a lot with Habitat for Humanity here in Los Angeles. The volunteers that come out occasionally to help frequently can't do something as basic as reading a tape measure (beyond the numbers which are printed on it of course). Many of my Saturdays are effectively a clinic on how to pound a nail.

If shop classes were oriented to teach good work habits along with basic instead mechanical skills, instead of worrying that the students weren't learning on state of the art equipment, everyone
would be better off.

I got a lot of emails along these lines. My high school (and junior high) required this -- and actually required a kind of home-ec-in-disguise course for seniors of both sexes on how to shop, budget, cook, and generally run a household that was really quite good. Of course, nowadays it's all about teaching to the standardized tests, and they don't test people's ability to hammer a nail. If they did, every class would be hammering for an hour a day.