Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Physical Intelligence

I spent this weekend with my friend, Jenny and her family. Jenny and her husband are marine biologists, and both possess a temperament that is solid, grounded and real. For their work, they go out on tiny fishing boats for weeks at a time, studying marine life, catches and the environment. As you can imagine they are both very physical people.

Their son, Lincoln, is nearly 4. He is grounded in the world, so strong and present. Watching him in the playground, I sit on the edge of my bench as I see him fling his body off the highest reaches of the structure. Jenny and Warren sit calmly, not even flinching as he takes yet another dive, lands with a splat, picks himself up and carried on. This kid is tough.

I think the four of us share a specific physicality. We all relate through the world through touching, feeling, making, fixing, categorizing: pushing against things. We are all physically strong, the sort of people who 150 years ago would have made it across the Prairie in a covered wagon. 

We get into a conversation about university and how scary it is to raise the funds to send your kid there.  There's this belief these days that everyone HAS to get college degree- and with it the $150,000 price tag. I'm a child of academics, but I feel like this is bullshit for a lot of people. Instead, I think we should be elevating the Trades to a higher level.  I recognize that the trades used to be about class (upper classes went to explore their minds at the universities while the working classes were stuck in metal shop with a limited future).  My dad grew up very poor in Liverpool, and it's pretty much a miracle of class progress that he didn't end up a mechanic, and instead became a esteemed professor. That is definitely progress, and we should support it. But what of the kid who longs for making, fixing, tinkering, and is instead is pushed by everyone to go to college to theorize? Is one really catagorically better than the other, or are we just leaning up against unexplored classist beliefs? Matthew Crawford talks about this eloquently in Shop Class as Soulcraft.

If and when I have kids, I'm going to support them if they want to go to university, but it's not going to be required. I don't think you need it in order to be a fully realized person. Or, indeed, to make a good living. 

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