Monday, November 17, 2014

Role Reversal in post-war Britain

Paul Addison.  Now the War is Over.  A Social History of Britain 1945-51.  British Broadcasting Corporation/Jonathan Cape, 1985.
This is timely, especially when the war had shown that women had no problem stepping up to the plate and performing as well as, and often better than, men in the skilled trades.

Sadly, even when I attended school decades later, girls didn't get to attend shop and boys weren't taught to cook or iron. A remarkably stupid system. The treatment is now more even.  In most Ontario elementary schools, neither boys or girls are given any such training whatsoever.


Tom Gaspick said...

In the early 1960s, I attended Earl Grey Senior Public School (grades seven and eight) in Toronto, Ontario. The school had superb, well-equipped wood and metal shops, and excellent teachers in them.

(I still remember the metalworking teacher's name -- Mr. Makings. He was a big, barrel-chested Scotsman who brooked no nonsense, and was truly a master of his subject.)

Those two shops for those two years are about all of my education that I look back on fondly, and with gratitude. Imagine -- boys learning that they could manipulate tools and materials to useful effect; what a concept. Why would such an enterprise be abandoned?

I would love to know what the thinking was behind abandonment of the shops, and I don't buy the notion that they were economically unsupportable -- there's always money for whatever the powers-that-be want there to be money for.

The Duke said...

I too remember Grade 7 and 8 shops with great fondness and also with immense respect for my teachers, all of whom had worked in their field. Their kind disappeared in what I disparagingly refer to the "revenge of the nerds" when academic qualifications for teaching shop trumped actual skill and experience. As the country's industrial base deteriorated, the powers that be no longer saw a need for such instruction, even though a compelling case could be made for shops as "education for enjoyment" instead of "education for employment." So, we lost the opportunity to teach boys and girls about the pride that comes with making things with your hands, as well as the skills to judge quality in manufactured objects. This lack of discernment has allowed companies Ikea to make a killing. It completed the transition to a consumer society, where all the citizens do is to buy things. Finally, as items were manufactured in such a way as to be completely non repairable, there was declining need to teach kids how to make or repair things themselves. All hail the landfill site!