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Is maker culture better than school?

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
7th June 2014


Extracted from Reason.com and authored by Zenon Evans, the following article asks whether maker culture is a better option in today’s ravaged educational landscape.


The first generation exposed en masse to zero tolerance policies, millennials have been expelled, arrested, and tasered for an absurd litany of inoffensive acts. That’s on top of schools’ perennial failure to actually provide kids with a decent education. This generation is growing up and going to college in record numbers, only to find institutions drained of their counterculture gusto for intellectual confrontation and replaced by free speech zones that quarantine unpalatable ideas.

Image by Duncan Rawlinson

Perched in a watchtower above a live-sized game of Mouse Trap, MythBusters host Adam Savage announced, “When you make something … you’re telling a story about your desires. … You’re using your tools to improve yourself and the world around you.” He was directing the point to the younger attendees in his crowd of hundreds at Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, this past weekend. Their stories and desires are varied, but there was a consistent theme among many makers: They want to make life and learning more liberated, more fun, and a bit more rugged.

Implicit in their optimism and aim toward improvement is the awareness that current circumstances kind of suck. Young people cranked through America’s school system know that too well. The first generation exposed en masse to zero tolerance policies, millennials have been expelled, arrested, and tasered for an absurd litany of inoffensive acts. That’s on top of schools’ perennial failure to actually provide kids with a decent education. This generation is growing up and going to college in record numbers, only to find institutions drained of their counterculture gusto for intellectual confrontation and replaced by free speech zones that quarantine unpalatable ideas.

Growing up alongside millennials is the maker movement, and it is flourishing. Many young adults would do well to look upon this year’s Maker Faire’s standout structure: an imposing, steampunk octopus perched on a Mad Max-esque car. The razor-jawed, trash can-paneled beast is awesome in its ability to push people out of any sense of normalcy. It belches flames out of its tentacles as though it were a gritty reboot of the Statue of Liberty illuminating the eclectic, rough-around-the-edges movement of makers, whose do-it-yourself constituency overlaps everyone from hackers to knitters to off-the-gridders. They, like Savage, embrace hands-on education that “recognizes that discouragement and failure is part of the project.”

Read the rest of the article here

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