Friday, April 30, 2010

#14: You *can* DIY, but should you?

 There's not a whole lot I lament missing when it comes to The Middle Ages. That whole "the more you enjoy yourself the more you will burn in hell" thing must have been, well, not very enjoyable. Unless you were lucky enough to be born into royalty as a man, life pretty much stunk for you. But there is one thing that I do wish we had preserved from The Middle Ages -- an appreciation for craftsmanship.

Not to paint with a broad brush, but it seems like many professions are being affected by the mantra of "Heck, I could do that!" It shows up in insidious ways. For example, a friend of mine is a teacher in a struggling school district. The district is struggling so much, in fact, that the teachers were asked if they would be willing to teach one day a week without getting paid. Now I happened to know my friend back in college when she was pursuing her degree in education. In addition to her classwork, she had to wake up at ungodly hours to go to classrooms and basically train on the job. She did a ton of student teaching, which is not a walk in the park. She studies, she cares. Just like 90% of the teachers out there. They were not willing to teach for free. Teaching is their job.

The parents in the district attacked the teachers for this and said they didn't care about the students. It does not register with them that teaching is a paid profession and one that requires craftsmanship in order to be truly good.

Our society is filled with examples that make us think we can just go ahead and do something. Television commercials for Lowes and Home Depot  give you the confidence you need to paint your house or build a brick wall. Google offers a suite of services that can assist anyone in doing really anything he or she wants online. There are kits for teaching yourself a foreign language. There are even kits that claim that they make you paint like a Monet or a Cezanne.

There's a key differentiation missing in all of these examples. Yes, you CAN just stand in front of a group of people and repeat what you know and call that teaching. Yes, you can go to some template house and build a functional website. Yes, you can buy a kit and feel like you're the next Picasso.

But should you?

There are people out there who spend a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears to learn a craft, whether it's masonry, teaching, or yes, even things related to marketing. I might know the mechanics of teaching and I might even know some best practices, but I don't know enough to know what I don't know. I think that's probably true of a lot of people. I know about Google Analytics but I'm not Avinash Kausik. I love doing Yoga but I'm not Suzanne Deason.

Is it easier to become expert at some things now? Probably. Through a lot of experience in painting walls,  you learn what works and what doesn't, and pretty soon you can start a blog that offers pointers. By doing a lot of studying, you yourself can become a good teacher or a marketing expert or whatever you want to be. But I am worried about this wave of thought that makes people think that because they can do something, not only should they do it, but it will be just as good as what a craftsman would do.

As for me, I'm off to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Image by John Nyberg.

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