In the past few days I have had two almost identical conversations. The first was on Sunday was with a friend of mine named Amy Hersey, who was very excited to learn that I can and dry produce each year. She wanted to know if she could come help me make strawberry jam this spring, because, as she confessed, her mother had never taught her how to do those kinds of things. Then, yesterday, as I was standing in line at the grocery store, I struck up a conversation with a woman ahead of me, who confessed that she bought boxed maccaroni and cheese because she had not the least idea of how to make a cheese sauce from scratch.
These things alarm me, not because everyone needs to make their own jam and their own cheese sauce, though I think everyone should, but because it is indicitive of how much practical knowledge is no longer being passed from one generation to the next. As our society has increasingly emphasised the importance of formal schooling, and as that schooling has become increasingly directed toward producing members of the professional workforce, the other sorts of learning that used to occur in the home and the neighbourood have become neglected. We have become accustomed to purchasing almost all of our products and services, even when these products and services are entirely inferior to what we could make ourselves. We no longer grow or preserve produce; we no longer cook or bake; we no longer work wood; we no longer sew.
The excuse we give, of course, is that we do not have the time to do these things ourselves, and to some extent this is true. Now that I have two children, I no longer bake bread or make pies as often, and I have never been much of a tailor, even if I can do my own mending. But there are some things that I would not give up, the things that are most meaningful to me, like canning and cooking, and it should concern us, it certainly concerns me, that we are so busy that we can do nothing of this sort any longer, that we do these kinds of things so infrequently that our children never learn from us how to do them.