This is a course, in the words of David Foster Wallace, about “adjusting our default setting”; using reskilling as a tool for mindfulness and community-building. One of the consequences of increasing specialization and monetization of the economy is that skills that were once common among the general population, skills that by their nature contributed to a sense of community, skills that could not be accomplished without thought and intention, are now shared by few.
What is reskilling and why is it important? Phillip Barnes describes it as “the acquisition of skills essential to satisfy basic needs in a localized and carbon-constrained future… Reskilling is a process, ongoing and never-ending, that evolves as conditions change and contexts change. It is first and foremost a community-oriented method….While one can learn reskilling by watching a video or reading a book, it is the face-to-face interactions that build community….where a talented and knowledgeable individual or group teaches other people what they know.”[i]
Together with essays and reflections on the nature of home-based work, presentations by innovators tackling difficult problems we face as we move in to a time of uncertainty, and hands on skill-building in each session, this course offered tools for increasing awareness, self-agency and community-building. Skills learned included herbal medicines, acorn bread, soap-making, canning, mending, basic wiring, felting/repurposing wool. Other skills were determined by the interests of the classroom community awere student-taught. These included bagel-making, knitting, fire-starting, atole, walnut ink, making cordage from nettle, and potato candy.
[i] Barnes, Phillip, “What is Reskilling Anyway?” Transition US. Web. October 13, 2014. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-10-13/reskilling-as-mastery-of-appropriate-technology/