A Core Apprenticeship

Once we have a basic common knowledge enabling us to contribute to our community, we then need a basic common knowledge with others who work in our field. Throughout history, this knowledge base has been built through master-student interactions. During the Middle Ages, crafts and trade guilds organized more formal apprenticeships.

The apprenticeship as we know it today followed the home schooling period. While well-to-do children were taught household and business management skills, poorer children were signed into seven-year contracts with a local craftsman. They lived with the craftsman, learning the trade by copying the craftsman until they mastered the craft and created their own work. A child who couldn’t master the craft was dismissed.

Today, apprenticeships are an integral part of the training for a number of trades. As opposed to the medieval ten year old, though, modern apprentices are generally 18. Instead of living with and working with a master craftsman for seven years, apprentices in many fields learn for a set period and then work for their master craftsman for up to five years. Some fields recognize a combination of apprenticeship and vocational training as comparable to a full apprenticeship.

Where apprenticeships are usually undertaken after high school, a number of states have built vocational training options into their high school standards. Students can then decide whether or not to pursue the vocation through vocational school or apprenticeship, both of which consistently confer not only the necessary skills but also a certification of some sort (a far better track record than internships).

When we share a basic common knowledge with others in our field, we have a basic groundwork to build discussions and frame debates. When we understand what the field has been through, we can use that history to inform our decisions, and then clarify and defend them in a way that fosters more creation and understanding.

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