A few days ago the front storm door of my house wouldn’t open. The knob turned but the latch remained stuck. I retrieved a screwdriver and removed the screws around the knob on both sides of the door; the latch didn’t budge.
I called the installer, a family-owned window and door company in my town. Within an hour, Jeff called, and we set a time for him to come over. He tinkered with the latch and brought out tools, taking the knob and handle apart. The plastic cylinder inside was worn out. He needed to order the part and would return the next morning. As he left, he mentioned how he’s the handy man for the company. “The other guys have it easy,” Jeff said, “they install doors and windows all day. I have to figure out how to fix things.”
His comment, like the annoying door latch, stuck with me.
Growing up, my grandparents and parents knew how to fix things. My maternal grandfather, Joe, would repair broken pots and dishes. My mother and I often invoke his talents when a saucepan needs a new handle or a cake plate is cracked and chipped. He’d restore the function of these items, if not the original beauty.
My father, a farmer, invented mechanisms to repair machinery. He still does, applying his “make something out of nothing” attitude to fixing tractors and equipment on my brother’s golf range. Over the years, I remember him fixing the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer and my mother’s sewing machine.
My mother mended- and still does—clothing most of us would turn into rags. She saves everything. “You never know when it might be useful,” she says. She’s the master of using leftovers; a half a cup of coffee and the juice in an empty pickle jar are added to soups and stews. Children of the Depression, they’re the original recyclers; little is ever thrown out.
While waiting for Jeff to return the next morning, reading the newspaper and drinking my coffee—and, no, I never save anything leftover in the pot—I read an editorial about what today’s graduates need to know.
With graduation season upon us, advice to high school and college graduates abounds. High schoolers, entering college, face uncertain futures. Will the economy be that much better in two or four years to improve their job prospects? Reports for college graduates have been equally worrying. Without employment, their ability to pay off student loan debts becomes compromised.
I thought about the editorial and about how my parents and grandparents could fix things. How they mended, invented, and adapted; how they saved wire bread twists, elastic bands, empty jars, and parts from broken appliances to reuse somewhere else. I remembered a blog post by “Siobhan Curious,” a teacher from Canada, who posed the questions:
“What else should be taught in school, but isn’t, at least in the schools you’ve attended?”
And “what do you wish you knew that no one ever taught you?”
And I thought about today’s graduates. Perhaps our curriculums need to be amended: don’t remove what’s there, but find ways to add some lessons that give graduates skills that might provide jobs. Like fixing stuck door latches.
I had added bike repair to the list on Siobhan’s post. And I’m asking: what do you think should be taught in school? And what do you wish you knew that no one ever taught you? Please post your comments!