Young Man! Do You Want To Learn Electrical Engineering? John Young’s Blog: “Young man! Do you want to learn electrical engineering the seven passwords of the Gnomon?”

…well, you know the obligatory ingredients of a supervillian’s lair?

* Underground
* Big, heavy, inscrutable machinery
* Some kind of platform or catwalk
* LCD monitors bolted to the walls
* Some kind of big blackboard with lots of math on it.

The damp, flyblown, and utterly terrifying unimproved basement space two stories underground had ALL OF THAT, including twelve classroom chairs jammed next to a big blue boiler, facing a six-foot concrete platform, in back of which was mounted a big dry-erase board covered in capacitance diagrams. Or, er… something. It did not appear to be the plans for a nuclear-tipped drill aimed at the molten core of the very earth itself, but you never know with scary subterranean lairs. He even gave me a brief lecture on calculating capacitance.

Anthony (that’s his name) turned out to be a really interesting guy — he’s 78 years old, and teaches classes for free that would cost two grand at trade school, and his only requirements are that you don’t have any felony charges and that you show up for class. He builds a lot of his own diagnostic equipment. The idea is that the students can take their first electricians’ tests and get a leg up on a good job.

Batshit-crazy as it sounds, it’s a really intriguing idea. There are thousands or millions of man- and woman-units of skilled, valuable knowledge out there in America. Retired people in relatively good health could teach underpriveleged kids useful skills for free, using good quality but outdated equipment donated by businesses, schools, and private citizens. They could set up teaching facilities in community centers and church basements (probably not as colorfully and mad-scientisty as the original location, but still). They could give kids an idea about a skill and some practical experience and give them an advantage in taking qualifying tests or possibly small scholaships to technical schools.

They could teach fundamentals of food service and food handling, carpentry and woodworking, dressmaking and clothing repair, automotive repair, and so on. These are all things that public schools used to teach, or still teach but are unavailable to kids who’ve dropped out.

Hmm. The only requirement is that you’re not a felon, and you show up for class. Seems like a leg up to me.

As seen at Boing Boing

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