My mother once said that I was a jack of many trades and master of none. I welcome that assessment!
My parents did not really understand the child they brought into this world. I say that because, in elementary school, I used to work as a child in a grocery, cleaners, and candy store. So, I had money to spend that did not depend on my parents’ contribution.
I bought kits to build motors, chemistry sets, and other paraphernalia to preoccupy my young mind.
When I graduated from elementary school in the sixth grade, I took a test to get into the Bronx High School of Science. In the sixth grade, one had to be reading on an eleventh grade level to be considered. I was reading on a 10.4 or 10.6th grade level at the time. I was disappointed that I did not make the grade.
As I passed on to the seventh grade, I felt that I was in one of the dumb classes of the grade for my placement did not depend on any innate ability that I had, but, rather on whatever measurement that the school had in place at the time. You see, in New York City, there was the IGC classes. It stood for: The Intelligent Graded Classes. As you can imagine, it was very competitive to get into those classes. My understanding, at the time, was that educators kept children together throughout their school life who exhibited the intelligence that granted them entry into those IGC groups.
IGC students learned to play instruments, learn another language, and other benefits not available to other students who did not make it into their specialized group. To date, I still perform as a piano player.
In 1963, or about that time, my family moved from New York City to the suburbs of Jamaica, New York. It was then that I was able to learn to play an instrument and learn French. Before I graduated from high school, I wanted to learn computer programming. I needed my parents’ consent. I did not get it. The technology was way ahead of its time!
I taught myself electronics by reading old military vacuum tube electronic books. When I fixed my first television that had an audio problem, it was the voice of Howard Cosell commentating on a Muhammad Ali fight. I started an electronic repair business in 1975 when I was 25 years old. It lasted until 1979, if my memory serves me correctly.
Since 1979, I have repaired and restored vintage radios, televisions, computers, alarm systems, and the whole gamut of broken electronic products, all without formal training or education.
Throughout my journey of life, I was a white collar worker. Most of my jobs where relevant to administrative duties. I took tests at companies like Xerox only to be told, “You have an administrative background. Why do you want to do electronic work?” You see, I had gone to many schools of higher learning and did not get a college degree. Yet, I was an administrator of multi-million dollar disputes, a labor administrator of disputes in the entertainment industry, paper industry, newspaper industry, and delivery services industries on the east coast, an editor of a legal publication, and columnist writing about labor and commercial contract disputes.
Based upon my life’s experience, I say do not groom students for industries. Rather, give students the opportunity to chose what interests them! Grooming students for jobs that someone thinks will be needed in the future is a bad approach to extracting the creative juices that lurk within individuals.
To this day, I have not settled on any one thing that intrigues or garners my interest. The evolution of the individual’s desire and curiosity should prevail, not the dictates of the government. My belief is that curious minds will seek and pursue the paths that leads to innovation and advancement.
Give students problems to solve and let them come up with the solutions that they think are plausible. There is always the challenge to their solutions. Those challenges will only promote more creative solutions never before thought of.