Reclaiming Lost Skills

Reclaiming Lost Skills

Computers. iPods. iPads. iPhones. Other smart phones. iTvs. GPSes. Xboxes. Are there more? More technical gadgets and toys? I’m sure there are. Too many for me to keep track of. And really, too many for many of us older folks to want to keep track of. That’s a lot of tech stuff.

But they come natural to young folks. Punching buttons, hitting switches, swiping screens, they think nothing of it. Manipulating a tech device is as natural for young people as splitting firewood was for the older folks.

We are in a period of rapid transition. The necessary skills of the present are huge challenges to the previous generations. Will we be able to successfully navigate all of the electronic changes? We’ll try. To live in this age, we have to know the tools and tricks of this age.

But, there is something for this generation to consider: what are they missing by not learning the skills of previous generations? Shelley Emling wrote an intriguing article entitled, “7 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don’t.” The seven skills are:

1) Cooking from scratch.
2) Sewing, crocheting, knitting and darning.
3) Canning.
4) Ironing really well.
5) Meeting people without benefit of the internet.
6) Haggling.
7) Writing beautiful letters.

My grandparents and parents did all of these. Cheryl and I do some of them. My kids do fewer of them.

We might ask, “What does it matter? These skills are all out of date for our modern era. Who ever cooks from scratch anymore?”

Just asking the question, “What does it matter?” shows that more than just a skill has been lost. A way of life has been lost, a way of life that was self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Many of our grandparents worked the farm, raising the food that they ate. Their fingernails had dirt under them from tending the crops and their ears heard the final cries of the hogs at slaughter. They knew their food came at great costs, both in their own labor and in the shed blood of their animals. Supper was a family effort, with all the family members planting, raising, harvesting and canning the crops, feeding, slaughtering and packaging the meat, and then cooking it. Then, the family dined around a common table. No fast food or microwave dinners for our grandparents. They ate food their bodies could digest.

Meeting people, haggling, and writing letters are all part of interpersonal skills and communication. Many times grandma or grandpa needed some cloth or a tool, but didn’t have the money for it. They know how to haggle, barter, or negotiate for what they needed. They didn’t have charge cards. Their communication skills were learned in conversation with family members and friends, so they learned words and concepts that could be written with proper grammar in meaningful letters, many of which they saved for generations.

Society has made a lot of gains with technology, gains that have made our lives more pleasant and enjoyable in many ways. But, society has lost some things in the transition from the farm to the iPhone as well. Might it benefit us to occasionally put the phone down, turn off the tv, sit around a home cooked meal, and be family? The excitement of our eight year old talking about her great play at third might quiet the call of our devices, and we might begin to reclaim some of the lost skills of our grandparents.

What are some other ways we can reclaim the lost skills of our grandparents for our own kids?

Warren Baldwin


Gorges Smythe said...

Aw, there will be plenty of time to relearn all that after society crashes and there's nothing to do!

Warren said...

Gorges, that is a possibility. But, it would be good to have some of those skills in place before hand.

Tracy Stella said...

Your piece reminded me of time spent with my grandparents on their farm. The question that comes to mind: how will we make memories for future generations to hold to if we never put our devices down? Don't get me wrong. I love technology. To your point, though, we might lose sight of things more important - traditions & skills worth keeping.

Warren said...

Thank you, Tracy. Good question about making memories. I think you may have a good blog post idea there! WB