For a few thousand years, the apprentice/journeyman system was responsible for many of the most impressive minds and creative works in human history. Under this system, young men and women would sit at the feet of, and work alongside their parents, teachers, rabbis, and mentors. This system was sufficient to breed the great philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, poets, authors, playwrights, architects, composers, musicians, painters, sculptors, clockmakers, and mechanical engineers of antiquity. Under this system we got the Sistine Chapel, Romeo and Juliet, The Roman Aqueducts, the Antikathyra mechanism, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Solomon’s Temple, and Beethoven’s “9th Symphony.”
Some of these great works have endured for millennia, but my iPhone 7 Plus has stopped working after 9 months. Every few days it tells me that there is no SIM card in it, and I now have to look for the little lightning bolt when I plug it in or I will wake up with a dead battery.
100 Year Old Self-Playing Violin – “The Eighth Wonder Of the World”
The Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina Orchestrion was built in 1914. At the time it was built, it was such an impressive technological feat it was called “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. It is a completely mechanical player piano with three self-playing Violins. Not only is it a mechanical marvel, but it is a beautiful piece of art, which still functions today. While it would be a great stretch for any man or company to build one of these today, what makes this machine even more impressive is that it is one of many. The Hupfeld company built several of these, and many other companies were building incredibly complex orchestrions at the same time. Many of these machines played dozens of instruments and could play any number of songs by simply changing their paper rolls, and many of these still function. They were designed and built by men who had studied and labored under masters for many years.
Over the past several generations we have increasingly abandoned an education model that works. Apprenticeship has been relabeled as “child labor”, and now there are laws and international task forces to squash it. Please don’t scold me about children sewing soccer balls or mining heavy metals. Humans have found ways to pervert and abuse every good thing since the fall of man. I am not campaigning for the rise of sweatshops or human slavery, just calling for a return to mentorship. Life and work as education. We have traded a proven model of education in favor of industrialized, standardized, state-run, one-size-fits-all schooling, and the experiment has failed.
As we film Schoolhouse Rocked I become more and more excited about the revolution we see in education. I am excited about the renaissance of classical education, the rediscovered value of family business and family economy, the rise of lifeschooling and mentorship, an emphasis on truth, goodness, and beauty, a valuing of living books, scholé, morning time, and family worship. While I am excited about each of these ideas for their own merits, I am more excited that in every case, the failed model of industrialize education is being challenged and invalidated, and families are taking back the responsibility of training up their children in methods that work. Long live the apprentice!