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“Teach A Man To Fish”: When Did We Stop Doing This?

I love Mike Rowe. He embodies everything that our great nation stands for: hard work, determination, and ethos. He’s a real “man’s man” who isn’t afraid to get dirty or tell it like it is.

If you aren’t familiar with Mike Rowe, let me provide a little background. Rowe is a jack-of-all-trades who stars on Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and CNN’s Somebody’s Got To Do It. The names of these programs pretty much summarize what he’s all about – contracting himself to do gross, weird, uninspiring jobs that nobody else wants to do. Think cleaning up porta-potties, road kill, and sewage.

While diligently carrying out such tasks is certainly admirable, that’s not really why I like him so much.

When he’s not hosting shows, Mike Rowe continually champions for the fair pay and growth of blue collar jobs. Rowe claims that the focus on tech-related skills both in schools and in the workplace is slowly eradicating trade skill-sets. Rowe is concerned that the rapid decline in people pursuing jobs in construction and plumbing are part of the reason our infrastructure is dilapidated. And he fears that the shifted focus from blue collar jobs to tech jobs is going to have monumental consequences for both our economy and our youth.

I can’t speak much on the loss of trade jobs, as I’ve never worked in any of these fields. What I can speak on is how both kids and young adults seem to be completely lacking basic skills.

Give young people a computer and they’ll fix it in seconds. Give them a PlayStation or Xbox and they’ll be able to maneuver their way through a “battlefield” like they are a skilled sniper. Ask them to connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth system and they’ll have it done before you can ask, “What the hell is Bluetooth, anyway?”

But ask them to change a tire, fix a garbage disposal, start a campfire, or stop a running toilet and they’re lost. Somewhere along the line, parents stopped teaching children basic survival skills. Somewhere along the line we said, “Screw it, I’ll just do it myself” or taught our kids to just call for hired help – neither of which helps prepare your child for living on their own. We simply dropped the ball.

Perhaps the disconnection started when “home ec” and “shop class” stopped being offered in schools. Perhaps it started when both parents in the family unit were forced to work, stripping away precious time and desire to teach children how to perform basic tasks such as cooking a steak or sewing a button. Perhaps it started with the radical shift that advances in technology and the internet created. Or maybe it was a cumulation of all three.

Regardless, it happened and the result was generations of kids joining the real world, unarmed with basic, necessary skills.

See, it really doesn’t matter that much if my child learns about Christopher Columbus if he doesn’t know what to do when a fuse blows in the house. It doesn’t matter if he can recite every capital in the U.S. if he doesn’t know how to properly clean a wound or cut. It doesn’t matter if he was the best at dodgeball if he doesn’t know how credit scores work or how to perform CPR or how to change the oil in his car or how to put out a grease fire.

I’m not saying learning about history or enjoying physical activity aren’t important – they certainly are. But since public education is certainly making no strides in arming our kids with the ability to carry out menial tasks, the responsibility rests squarely on us parents.

Sure, your child may not want to learn how to jumpstart a dead battery. It’s boring. But it could one day save his or her life and isn’t that kind of the whole point of parenting?

As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

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One comment

  1. All kids need this knowledge – it builds self confidence -take care of yourself attitude along with logical thinking that carries over to other areas of learning. It’s not unlike someone with an engineering degree that uses the logic in other fields to build and create.
    When I was young I used to read Popular Mechanics that covered so many topics and a friend in construction used to show me how to lay pipe, wire electricity and many other things. It wasn’t something most girls did back then. Unfortunately I was not encouraged to continue learning those things, but still the basics of what I learned has helped me in many ways throughout life.
    There are few things that are as valuable as this for kids to learn.

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