Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Montessori-Americans Strike Again

When I got up yesterday, I had 6019 emails in my inbox. The Montessori-Americans are at it again.

I wrote the other day about the benighted graduates of the White Dwarf Star Academy. No matter how I phrased it, and explained it, and commented about it after in simple, declarative style, I couldn't seem to get my point across. Everyone just goes back to their default setting and starts talking about kids these days, and how no one, sometimes including themselves, is handy with carpentry tools. I'll try again.

The people in the video, and the target audience of the TV show Screw*d are indeed not skilled in any productive manual arts. That is not the point. They are not good at any useful behavior. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. That's my point. Asking them to do something practical highlights an overarching, fatal flaw, because unlike every other thing they've been exposed to during their development, it requires them to change the world in a fundamental, productive way --something that can be measured. There's supposed to be a birdhouse visible at the end of the test, and there isn't. I was supposed to have today's email in my inbox, not 6000 emails I already erased. There's no difference, really. Someone like the hipster dorks in the video kept pressing some caramel-colored button somewhere for no particular reason-- somewhere that calls their workplace "a campus" to keep from terrifying their employees with even a hint of real work on the docket -- and I got thousands of emails I'd already erased sent to me over and over. I'll fix the email myself, and the birds will live in a dumpster, and that's that.

Whenever I go on one of these jags, everyone seems to further assume that I'm just a less successful Norm Abram making fun of the Valedictorians because they can't bang a nail, and I don't know Shakespeare from Shakes the Clown. But I am a born poindexter. I am the Valedictorian; or would have been, if I didn't stop attending school regularly when I was about sixteen. I don't presume to be as dumb and useful as Norm Abram. Norm learned what he knows from his father. My father taught me that when the vibration of the Briggs and Stratton loosens the nuts and bolts on the handle on the lawnmower, and they fall out and get lost on the tan lawn you're growing, you put rusty framing nails through the holes and bend them over with an upholstery hammer. I learned everything I know of  a practical nature on my own, because it seemed, well, useful; it bothers me to see so many robbed of the chance to hit their own thumbs and then proudly display their hematomas to a real, live girl  like I do every night.

Let's organize meetings, and everyone can puff on their inhalers instead of smoking and drink diet Mountain Dew instead of coffee and testify:

Hi. I'm a recovering Montessori-American.I was raised to pay attention to nothing in particular, until it got boring, and then pay attention to something else, and not learn anything by rote lest you lose the childish wonder of the goldfish discovering the side of the one-quart bowl with your forehead over and over again. When I grew up, I just expected my "workplace" would have half-circumcised tennis balls on the bottom of all the chairlegs, and a cafeteria and a ball crawl for when you get bored between team-building exercises and placing cover pages on your TPS reports. I figured important ideas would always be presented by a cartoonist on a whiteboard, or in collage format. I promised to make fun of people who read USA Today while simultaneously demanding everything be presented to me as a bar chart or a Venn diagram, and I fully expected to be drugged senseless to tolerate blocks of text of any kind. If a co-pay is suddenly required for my anti-anxiety medicine I figure I'll lay down on the low-pile carpet outside the HR office and whimper until one of us dies.

It breaks my heart to see them. They sit as meek and passive as Chance the gardener in an empty house saying, "Louise will bring me my lunch now." You'll not hear kids these days from me. Adults these days, maybe; because those adults have robbed most children of their birthrights, to soothe their own neuroses by visiting social engineering on the following generation.

The denouement of all public policy towards children from the last forty years has been reached. They don't know anything useful, they don't know how to learn anything useful, and they're afraid to learn anything useful. They're so far gone they're even afraid to reproduce themselves. But by god, they sure can update a Facebook page and dress the dog they have instead of a child as Boba Fett, which is nice, too. Who are you going to blame for that, exactly? Certainly not them.

The purpose of the Screw*d show isn't to make manually literate adults. It's an attempt to reposition the squaresville retailer that's selling the tools as someplace a hipster should shop. They want a taste of that magic Pabst Blue Ribbon marketing that turns anysuds into the hot new thing. They don't have any respect for manual arts, or the contestants, or the audience. They just want you to collect and display their tools along with your Legos and your action figures, even though you're balding and childless at this point and don't know anything about fixing things that the Handy Manny website didn't teach you. (Warning to productive adults: The Montessori-Americans that produced the Handy Manny website coded it to autoplay music, because they're tools, and not the kind of tools Handy Manny uses, either)

Don't cooperate. Have some respect for yourself, and for the subject at hand. Being a productive and useful adult is gratifying. Don't let them herd you into the world of the useless. Do Not Go Useless Into That Website.

Do not go useless into that web site,
Young age should spurn the rave and close the browser;
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight.

Men's men scratch their ends and know only right is tight,
Because their nerds had forwarded no emails they
Do not go mental because of some web site.

Fantasy Footballers, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail rosters might have danced against Green Bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight.

Mild men who know only of girls in bytes,
And learn, too late, that Darwin's on his way,
Do not go gentle into that porn site.

Concave men, out of breath, who see with myopic sight
Four eyes could blaze like Death Stars and be gay,(NTTAWWT)
Middle-age rage against the dying of the sleight.

Luke, I am your father, turn off The Dark Knight,
Text, tell me not of your IT career, I pray.
Do not go useless into that web site.
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight


John Farrier said...

Fortunately, there is hope for us.

My Dad can build or fix anything, but in my wayward youth, I was too foolish to take advantage of his willingness to teach me.

It's not too late. At 35, I'm teaching myself basic carpentry. I built a bookcase. Now I'm building a deacon's bench.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Just keep going and learning.

BrettonPoint said...

Buy a house with no money behind you and you surely will become a carpenter and plumber with broken nails and funny after the fact stories to tell.

misterarthur said...

Grow up with no dad, and you'll learn to fix a lot of things.

Russell said...

"They don't have any respect for manual arts, or the contestants, or the audience."

This. Peel back the "Gee, let's laugh ruefully at the manually inept, all the while knowing we are the same" and that's what you get. Over and over again.

"They don't know anything useful, they don't know how to learn anything useful, and they're afraid to learn anything useful."

And this. This mental hobbling is all to prevalent.

What breaks my heart is watching people doing their best to fit themselves into that mold, applying whatever God given talents and strength to vigorously saw off any vestiges of knowledge and intellect.

Sixty Grit said...

I was lucky, grew up in a house with a basement full of tools and materials, no supervision and parents who didn't care if we lived or died. Made lots of good stuff. Still do. It's a blessing.

My own children - meh - I have one son who always wants me to give him money because he is unemployed but doesn't understand that I would pay him if he would simply come over and work. I have too much work for one person to accomplish. Oh well, I will die with work undone and plenty of money in the bank. I will not leave it to him.

Casey Klahn said...

I am searching for something witty to say, but I'm really laughing hard at this one. Well done.

Jewel said...

Brilliant, once again, Mr. Cottage. I was a lucky lass a long time ago, when my dad took me to work with him and let me play with the soldering iron. I got good at soldering things to pennies and such like, and I also learned how to polish brass. Drum cymbals, mostly. But the soldering part. I had a job for one day with an electrician where I helped him solder 3 pronged doohickies into the back of a church pipe organ. It paid me 25 bucks an hour. Union scale at the time.
Housewifery hasn't been as profitable, but at least I can solder something if I need to.

dadofhomeschoolers said...

um, carpentry isn't one of my strong points. I have restored furniture, not one of those things you see on that adult "show and tell" program, but something useful.
I have restored a car too. The only things I didn't do myself was bending the exhaust pipe and stitching the backs of the seats.
I can plumb, in copper, iron, and plastic. I am employed as an electrician, I can weld, I can use every tool in the machine shop. I can run a back hoe. I can use the oblique method when I am drawing what I am designing.
I have designed and built a circuit for deciding which power input to use, using relay logic.
So can I be forgiven for my inability to hammer a nail straight?

Rob De Witt said...


"Grow up with no dad, and you'll learn to fix a lot of things."

Me too. Badly, as it happens, but stubbornness has led to my learning a whole lotta shit I never intended to.

Russell said...

Someone might have accused me, wrongly, of having some sort of awareness of the situation had I not used the wrong 'too'.

Fortunately, being a functional idiot spared me any embarrassment such an accusation might have caused.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome, but why are you picking on Montessori? At least Montessori education has real stuff in it.

SippicanCottage said...

The Montessori Mafia

H. Gillham said...

This made me giggle.


Love the poem parody. What fun!