Traditional trades suffer as college rates increase

The current generation loses sight of some skills their parents and grandparents practiced.

Our dishwasher wouldn’t stop running.

When our landlord called in the repairman, he said the timer needed replacing. Turns out, the part is more expensive than buying another dishwasher, as is the case with most technologies these days, so the owner opted to purchase a new appliance for our kitchen.

Home Depot would install it. All we had to do was pull the old dishwasher out from the wall.

After 45 minutes of tinkering with my 64-year-old father on speakerphone, I can finally pull the dishwasher out from under the counter. I’m sweaty and tired on a Thursday evening, and there’s water all over the floor. Meanwhile, two of my male roommates are sitting 15 feet away on the couch, probably watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Not only are my roomies lazy, household repairs are not exactly their forte. They’re not alone, though. I wouldn’t have known what to do without my dad’s voice coming out of my cell phone on the floor. How did we become so inept? I’m going to college. I’m educated. I’m independent.

Unfortunately, it’s only two out of three: I may be living on my own, but I still rely on my parents for carpentry instructions or how to bake a potato. But I do have an opportunity that most kids in my parents’ day didn’t have: education for a better career and thus a better lifestyle. We’re a new generation, learning how to take on a new world.

We’re also learning how to rely on other people to know what they’re talking about.

“[When] you no longer have the skills, don’t know how something works, you don’t know what needs to be done,” said Kevin Delaney, a sociology professor at Temple and vice dean for faculty affairs in the College of Liberal Arts. “You’re at the mercy of the person advising you.”

With each generation, practical skills, along with the knowledge of how, are passed on less and less. As Delaney expressed, things like sewing or knitting are now thought of as hobbies or “folk-crafts,” when they used to be a part of daily life. Cooking and gardening have become time-consuming and inconvenient — open a can and put it in the microwave, right? After all, we’re busy college students working on analytical papers about abstract concepts.

Delaney explained that the new generations are diverging into what he calls “knowledge workers and concrete workers.” By concrete, he means professions that involve physical skills or labor.

Although we could find these concrete abilities helpful, we don’t find a need for them, Delaney pointed out.

“We’re buying skills instead of making [things],” he said.

As mentioned before, this creates a dependency – on both sides. So we, as college students, have two options. Join the simplicity movement, which Delaney defined as a “harkening of old times,” where people return to their roots of self-sustainable living, instead of relying on other people to do the work for them.

Delaney offered option number two as relying on your college degree to support your lifestyle.
“Hopefully you make enough money to pay for the repairs,” he laughed.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

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