Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Boy racers & learning as becoming

Over the last three weeks, I have been immersed in writing up a rough first draft towards my PhD thesis, belonging, becoming and being bakers: the role of apprenticeships. One of the premises of the thesis is that we learn skills, knowledge etc. during an apprenticeship but we also learn many other things like life skills, workplace relationship, learn how to learn, etc etc. most of which are inferred as something apprentices will learn even if there are no unit standards attached to them.

This week, the local papers & national media have been awash with reports on boy racers. In particular the way they make pests of themselves by congregating in large numbers and holding drag races, usually late at night. The local city council banned the boy racers (who were in town this weekend in greater numbers to attend a motor show) from areas that they had been a problem before. This included streets around the city and one of the streets in the city that has many car sales yards. Vandalism perpetrated in the car yards had raised an outcry from these businesses. The boy racers then ended up in one of the more exclusive areas of the city which riled the august citizens living in the area by keeping them up for most of the night.

All the commentators seem to be bend on clamping down on boy racers by using the usual law & order strategies. Fines, arrests for non – payment of fines, confiscation of vehicles etc.

Anyway the furore has been an excuse for me to think about other things besides the contents of my thesis along with the need to get my twelve year old car fixed to meet warrant of fitness standards. One of the readings I browsed through last week came to mind, an academic paper by Phil Cohen in the Journal of Education and Work. The paper proposes using the narratives of the various ‘actors’ who participate in ‘labour’ to provide perspectives on the concepts for understanding the ‘knowledge economy’ and other social issues. It contains a telling quote (summarised from page 116) from a young man (age 17) explaining the differences between how he and his father viewed work.

“My old man’s a car mechanic. I’m what they call a boy racer. We both fix cars! He don’t approve of some of the things I get up to, but where am I gonna learn on the job and get kicks at the same time?”
My thinking is why are we wasting all the skills these young people are learning? OK. Some of the associated skills might not be appropriate to civilised society but what about the ones that are of use? I know from experience that my students are the best source of information on the best deals for motor mechanics. So wouldn’t it be great if boy racers used their skills with cars to help others in society fix their cars? The non boy racer population would have the opportunity to interact with a sector of society that has trouble understanding them and boy racers would be exposed to a different set of viewpoints as well.

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