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Master Craftsman vs. Mandated Commodity

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S P E C I A L   F E A T U R E

Master Craftsman vs. Mandated Commodity
Is there a difference between apprenticeship and School-toWork?

     Home School Legal Defense Association recently announced plans to launch an “apprenticeship college,” and we are now receiving a steady stream of calls and letters from enthusiastic home schoolers. The mainstream media seems intrigued by the concept, and treats apprenticeship as “news.” Yet apprenticeship is hardly new—it has been one of the most successful and least expensive ways the human race has ever found to prepare young people for life. What is apprenticeship, and why is it becoming so popular—again—among home schoolers?
     The dictionary defines an apprentice as one who is “under legal agreement to work a specified length of time for a master craftsman in a craft or trade in return for instruction.” In colonial times, parents would sign an apprenticeship contract with a skilled workman, who promised to teach their child a particular skill. In the late nineteenth century, compulsory attendance laws and child labor laws prohibited apprenticeship for younger teens; and in the early twentieth century, assembly lines and factory labor reduced the demand for the kind of skilled labor that had traditionally been performed by apprentices. Apprenticeship—like home schooling—seemed to disappear from American life.
     But time has a way of recycling good ideas, and apprenticeship is on the upswing again. The phenomenal growth of the computer industry has created a huge demand for new skilled workers, and there is no better training for success in the computer field than hands-on experience. Employers began to find that as soon as they had trained a new worker, some other company would lure him or her away with a substantially higher salary. Computer companies finally started writing “golden handcuffs” contracts, in which the company promised to provide technical training and a modest salary in exchange for a multi-year commitment from the bright—but untrained—employee. And thus high-tech apprenticeship was born.
     Modern apprenticeship is a free-market response to changing times. It breaks the mold in higher education the way home schooling broke the kindergarten-through-high-school mold. As such, it may be our best defense against “School-To-Work” programs (STW), which threaten to extend the reach of government from the schools into the workforce. Under STW, schools become the factories which manufacture the raw material of children into the finished product of workers. Government defines each skill for every job, and central planners dictate who will be trained for what. STW turns our children into commodities for the insatiable appetite of industry and the greater good of society.
     Apprenticeship is the best defense against STW because it outperforms STW on every level. Consider the critical ways in which the two differ:

  • Control: STW is government-run for the “global economy.” Apprenticeship is privately negotiated between family and employer for their mutual benefit.

  • Content: STW relies on government-defined criteria and mandates. Apprenticeship teaches the student how to excel at the task at hand.

  • Character: STW extends the government’s secular and godless approach to education beyond the public school and into the job market. Apprenticeship allows parents to place their children in the care of skilled workmen of proven character.

  • Cost: STW will increase the cost of government-run education, with no immediate benefit to any individual student or employer. Apprenticeship, by contrast, provides the employer with low-cost labor and the student with much-needed skills, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

  • Credibility: STW is yet another trendy new reform theory that has yet to be fully implemented. Apprenticeship, by contrast, has centuries of proven success around the world.

     Parents want their children to prosper materially without suffering spiritually. Apprenticeship provides an important option for such families. Employers want high-skill employees at affordable wages. Apprenticeship provides just that. The only people who stand to lose from the renewal of apprenticeship are the social engineers who want to restructure education and the economy to suit their ideology.