I know, I know. You’re skeptical. YouTube is home to millions of channels, and the most famous and profitable are of young Millennial men and women opening toys or playing video games while you watch.
But bear with me, because I believe that YouTube is the answer to a huge problem we have right now in our world—The lack of reality education.
What do I mean by reality education? I mean Home Economics and Shop. Two classes that until the late eighties were considered mandatory classes for high school students. I call this reality education because these are the skills desperately needed to become an adult: cooking, budgeting, fixing an electrical outlet, building a fence, and yes, learning how to operate a chainsaw.
Some might think I’m being romantic, and I don’t buy into the Home Economics for girls and Shop for boys paradigm. However, in the early eighties most high schools were combining the classes and mixing the sexes. Boys cooked, girls ran chainsaws and all were well on their way to becoming citizens who didn’t have to call a handyman each time there’s a leak in the pipes.
Somehow by the early nineties though, the entire program just went away. Enter in the least handy generations ever…Generation X and Y. The TV handyman character, Red Green, always said, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they better find you handy.” I think this goes for women as well. Most of us don’t know how to change the breaks on our cars or replace the GFI outlets when they go out. We’re also struggling at balancing our daily finances, making budgets and cooking has gone out the window. It seemed like we fell into a dark ages where caring for the home fell into the category of, “Hire someone!” Good for real handymen, but bad for the rest of us.
The end of Home Economics started long before the eighties. In a Huffpost by Brie Dyas it’s suggested that, “The post-World War II landscape presented a challenge for college-level home ec studies. During the Cold War, universities started to defund programs in favor of increasing budgets for science departments. The explosion of convenience foods made from-scratch cooking seem irrelevant. As college-level courses disappeared, those at the high school level lost their cache, as well. As Megan J. Elias writes in "Stir It Up: Home Economics in American Culture," home ec "became associated with dead-end high school classes for girls."
Shop had a similar fate—to be a handyman was a last resort for those who couldn’t be something better. According to Tara Tiger Brown, a contributor for Forbes Magazine, there are real reasons why this happened. Let’s start with California, the pioneer in all things American it seems. She writes that shop and home economics didn’t make the a-g list for the UC when deciding what skills were needed for future Americans.
“The UC/CA State system focuses on theory and not applied skills; a belief that learning how to swing a hammer or understand the difference between a good joint from a bad joint is part of a by-gone era, and as a society these skills are not something to strive for – something people resort to when they are out of options. Looking at shop class in this light is short-sighted and detrimental to America’s future.”
Our fears of being stereotyped has led to a generation of humans who actually don’t feel prepared to care for their homes. Many still live with their parents, even decades after college (that’s another blog all in itself) but for those of us who do create homes of our own, we’ve pretty much had to learn as we go, which until the invention of YouTube, was quite difficult.
Take this perfect example. Just a few weeks ago, our gas fireplace in our bedroom died, just in time for the first winter freeze. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I called the store where we’d purchased the unit and they said their repair team was busy for the next six weeks! They gave me the numbers of some local fireplace repairmen. So I called them and they too were busy for eight to ten days. That’s a long time to sleep in a freezing bedroom. But my husband, being one of the last handy men of his generation, had installed the thing, so I asked the repairman if he could give me a hint of how my husband could fix it. He told me that there were two sensors that needed to be cleaned and gave a description of how to do so, which I passed on to my husband.
A mere five years ago, that would have been it. He would have tried and perhaps figured it out, but perhaps not and then we would have waited eight days until the guy could come to our house to fix it. But my husband had shop and sort of knew his way around. And even better, he searched YouTube and found a video of a guy doing just this repair. All he had to do was search for the model name of the fireplace with the words, “cleaning the sensors.” Voila! Issue fixed and heat was back on in no time.
I went on YouTube and found videos on how to do your laundry, write a check, balance a check book, make a bookshelf, replace a GFI outlet, clean my fireplace, and double ply yarn on a spinning wheel. The amount of information shared by those who know how to do is AMAZING!!! These aren’t famous YouTubers making millions a year. These are men and women who are willing and able to take the time to teach those of us under the age of forty-five how to do the things we need to do to keep the house running.
In lieu of learning these basic homemaking skills from our parents, or from home economic and shop classes in school, YouTube is our final hope.
I recommend getting on there and taking charge of your education! To start, visit Red Green on YouTube, the best handyman TV show on Earth, and it’ll get you laughing, which is the best way to tackle any problem. For real life problem solvers, I found this list of Nine Great DIY YouTube Channels from Popular Mechanic to be incredibly helpful.
I’m so grateful to these DIY folks and I applaud them. If you’re one of them, please know that you’re appreciated and I honestly think that you’re saving our civilization.
For without you, our homes would fall into ruin…trust me.