Nov 4, 2015

On Apprenticeship

via Henry Dampier

My column this week at Social Matter is about the history of the apprenticeship system (mostly in America) and why it’s so challenging to revive it despite a lot of interest in doing so. Here’s an excerpt:
When intelligent people discuss the problems with the higher education system in the Western world – namely that it costs too much and fails to prepare most of its students and graduates for fulfilling lives – the suggestion to revive the apprenticeship system which existed in bygone times often comes up.
Billionaires like Nassim Taleb and Peter Thiel have both advocated something like a return to the apprenticeship system which was ubiquitous up until the early modern era. These suggestions are also often echoed by bloggers and others who know vaguely about what they want, but aren’t quite clear on what the old apprenticeship system was and why it ultimately faded.
This article will attempt to clear out some of the confusion and obfuscation around the issue.
One company that attempted to revive the apprenticeship concept for high tech companies just shut down earlier this month. In the closing letter, the founders cited some failed matches and high expenses for managing the relationships between ‘apprentices’ and mentors. Their ambition was to create a national apprenticeship network, but the model couldn’t scale.
Some states have also attempted to create larger apprenticeship programs outside the construction trades, where they are still prevalent (albeit in a different way than was traditional).
Despite all these well-intentioned efforts, many if not most of them are likely to fail. To understand why, we have to retrace the history of why compulsory education and labor reforms displaced the old apprenticeship model.
Head on over and read the whole thing. Please comment at Social Matter if you have any suggestions for follow-up topics. In particular, I’d like some suggestions for sources to learn more about the guild system in Europe.

What I’m working on

I have about 5,000 words in excerpts and notes written down about The Vampire Economy, which is a pre-WW2 book about the economy of Nazi Germany drawn mostly from letters and interviews. I’m going to experiment with some audio recordings on my phone (was good enough for at least a couple podcasts I’ve appeared on) of some of the more fun quotes from the book.

I’ve also collected and reformatted most of my posts from this blog and Social Matter. I’m going to be collecting them into a compilation that I’m going to be selling on Kindle and iBooks (the latter might be a later release than the former). This is mostly done and waiting for me to get a newsletter up and running to my satisfaction. That’ll make for an exceptionally fat eBook. In the future, I’ll be doing collections more frequently to prevent it from piling up like that.

I’ve made some progress on the e-mail course that I mentioned before. This’ll be a teaser for a weekly newsletter which will have a writing style closer to what my regular blogging was like. I’m getting that up before any of the other stuff. It a bad idea to start off with a drip course because it’s so time consuming to put together properly, but I’ve completed enough work on it that I don’t want to drop the project.

My book project is stalled at around 30,000 words. Some of the material is good — generally, one notch above the typical quality level on this website. I’m not sure that it needs to be a full book, or that the political manifesto type format is all that worthwhile. This is one of those not-so-hidden pitfalls of self-publishing, and it’ll be the last time that I attempt a full-length book without a publisher.

I’m unsure that the world really needs more opinionated books written by 29-year-olds. I’m going to look for some criticism to determine what I do with the manuscript. If I’m going to finish it, I want to be confident about it — and if I’m going to junk it, I want to junk it so that I can get started on some more worthwhile projects.
If I do elect to cancel it, I’ll just publish what’s mostly completed on the blog for free.
An example of an alternative project would be a digest of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s most important works. I also have a bunch of other ideas that I’d like to tackle, like a discussion of Soviet infiltration in the US government during WW2 using Diana West’s book on the topic as a jumping-off point.

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