Why grad schools should be more like steel mills.

(without the part in which management tries to break the back of organized labor or the constant threat of being slammed in the face by an ingot)

My grandfather, Iggie Hoffman, was a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel (the subject of Billy Joel’s Allentown, now a casino).  Imagine the love child of Archie Bunker and MacGuyver, and that’s pretty much Iggie.  He could make, fix, or jerry-rig anything out of duct tape and Austro-Hungarian profanities.  He lost at least 3 and a half fingers on the job, which didn’t impact his digital dexterity, or prevent him from going to the mill the next day and working a double shift.  Had he been born into different circumstances, he could have been a surgeon or an architect or an engineer. Somehow he managed to feed a family of seven, design and build a home, and send kids to college on one blue-collar salary.  Unimaginable today.

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4 thoughts on “Why grad schools should be more like steel mills.

  1. My teaching and mediation colleague Brad is being far too modest. His “How to Build your Own NGO course” which I observed a few times at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs is a great model for practical education, and it certainly doesn’t short change the conceptual basis — the WHY that underlies the HOW. Grandpa Iggie would be proud! Maybe that $200 large was not wasted after all.

    And if I may be permitted a personal educational history note: 1) like Brad, surviving the ridicule for being the only boy in my HS typing class was a great investment, and that was long before computers were even a gleam in the IBM eye. 2) my two years + devoted to earning a Stanford MBA left me with only two knowledge nuggets, one general management tip and one for accounting, which I will now share if you promise to use them wisely: a) delegate b) credits right side, debits left side (or is it the other way around?). Alan

  2. Brad, i think the greatest legacy Dad l(“Iggie”) eft to me was his ingenuity and resourcefulness, Honestly – he was an example of continuous education, ethics, morals and how to find money where seemingly there was none. He had his flaws – as we all do – but, in general, he was a person of character that could be trusted. He had credibility. So do you. In this world, that’s what matters. That’s who we follow. That’s who is truly the intellectual. And if you look in the mirror, I think you’ll find those same qualities staring right back at you.

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