Tiny Tuesday: Upward Mobility Through Carpentry

When I gave up my old desk job to build a house back in 2014, I sensed the power of carpentry. No education or experience is required; only manual dexterity, basic mental math skills, and a strong work ethic. The benefits are immediate (physical strength, camaraderie, the satisfaction of bringing an edifice into existence) and long-lasting (the mastery of a skilled labor). What job could be more perfect for delinquents seeking to reform?

One correctional school teacher in Santa Clara County, California, made that same observation and created a program for students to build a tiny house. Ralph Wigginton directed an ever-changing group of high schoolers on the project for 90 minutes a day. The short time window, along with discipline and frequent mistakes, predictably limited progress. Nevertheless, the students loved the sense of accomplishment and skill-building.

You can imagine their resentment when the county school board threatened to pull the project out of concern that it was taking too long to complete, and the students didn’t have the necessary skills. Wigginton pushed back, sharing students’ responses like this one: “Most of us have never accomplished anything… taking the tiny house away from us would really upset us.” In response the board accused Wigginton of violating students’ privacy, and now he could lose his job.

Bureaucracy: 1, Upward Mobility: 0.

Read the full story in this Mercury News article.

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