All these apparent disagreements over The Test and over whether
teachers are worth their salaries may arise simply because we
travel in different circles and have different expectations.
If I were looking for a job in a trade shop, or if I though I
would ever look for a job in a trade shop, the test might be a
good idea. If I ever though I’d look for a job at all, an MFA in
metals might be a fine idea. But neither would prove that I’d be
a productive employee or that I could, or would, do the work
expected of me. Like any certificate or degree, it might help me
get in the door, but from then on it would be up to me to learn
what was going on there fast enough to be able to do what they
wanted in the way they wanted it done.
I think we all have to be responsible for our own education. In
a sense, we are all self-taught. Schools may be helpful and they
may not. It would be a rare school (or mentor or apprenticeship
or job) that taught us nothing, and an equally rare one that gave
us everything we needed. We have to scramble to gather the
knowledge we need wherever we can find it – from Orchid, from
books and videos, from shop-talk with friends, from spying on
competitors, to getting a university degree or working in a
trade shop. I personally think the best method is that mentioned
by Charles Lewton-Brain in his excellent article called
"Craftsmanship Improvement Method:" brainstorm and figure it out.
But none of those things would be sufficient all by itself. I
think we’re heading down the wrong path by criticizing them for
not being what they were never designed to be.
It would be foolish indeed of me, self-employed and not looking
for a job, to spend a thousand dollars and 36 hours taking The
Test, which none of my customers would care about. That doesn’t
make it bad, just irrelevant to me. I’d still learn a great
deal if I’d prepare myself to pass it. I never learned to size
20 rings an hour in a university art class, but I learned other
things there that have proved tremendously valuable, things that
enable me to make a living now. I learned to size rings
somewhere else, and, God be praised, I have never had to even
think about sizing 20 an hour. I think we just have to keep
things in their proper perspective. By the way, this Orchid list
is great, isn’t it?