Are we losing traditional skills?

Do you know how to sew? How to fix a fuse? The basic chemistry involved in cooking? 

Odds are the answer is no. So few of us do anymore. Basic life skills that were once considered the cornerstone of education are no longer part of curriculum, and with so much else to worry about these days, few of us have the opportunity to learn these traditional skills on our own time. In fact, recent reports suggest that a scary number of traditional skills are rapidly dying out. Unsurprisingly, most have been replaced by technology. Some are just seen as irrelevant in the modern age. 

Sadly, the fact that skills such as textiles, cooking, and woodwork have been gradually phased out of the curriculum over the past few decades means that not only do the current generation of schoolchildren not know how to do these things, but they also lack older role models to look up to. Few parents of this generation will have been taught these skills either, so they can’t pass them down. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Although the majority of us don’t know how to sew, fix a fuse, or cook from scratch, luckily there remain a handful of industrious folk who do. (Side note: if you do know how to do one or more of these things,we’d love to know how you came to learn these skills? Were you taught at school? By an older relative? By YouTube? - drop us a note on social media and let us know).

Even more encouraging is the fact that there is a growing revival in these areas. While we perhaps aren’t able to learn these skills via schools, people are doing their bit to share what they know. And clearly there is an interest in these traditional skills if the hits on YouTube, the growth of crafting blogs, fix it workshops, and boost in craft sales is anything to go by. 

It seems that people are enjoying the sense of being able to create and fix things themselves. And this is great news for a number of reasons. Not only is it good for mental health and personal sense of worth, but it also has a role to play in upending the fast fashion, excessive consumer culture we’ve been falling into. These days we rarely make the effort to repair our goods or reuse what we have because everything is so cheap, there’s often no need to. Why fix a hole in your shirt when it costs £4 to replace it? 

Sadly, this means that often we don’t value things anymore, and our willingness to just buy, buy, buy is putting immense pressure on the planet. The repair, reuse, and recycle revolution is changing all that though. Because when we’re the ones putting in all the hard work to create or repair something, it usually means we value it more. And when we value things, we take care of them. If you’ve ever made or repaired something yourself, you probably know that sense of pride that comes with it, and how much more care you invest into that item, more so than something you just pick up on your supermarket trip. 

So while the loss of traditional skills in schools is a worrying trend, there are ways to combat it. There are new tv shows springing up to bring attention to the value of refurbishing and repairing items. For example, the BBC's Repair Shop is a great relaxing TV show which brings together many traditional craftspeople who repair sentimental things. If you have even a passing interest in learning how to sew, cook, fix a lamp or any other manual craft, why not see if you can find an online tutorial, or better yet, attend one of the many ‘repair cafes’ that are springing up around the world.

It’s up to us now, to keep these traditional skills alive, and make sure the hard work and exceptional knowledge of the generations that went before us isn’t lost forever.


By Eleanor Bruce

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