Barbers and School


My son, for whatever reason, has chosen to let his hair grow while at college in Toronto. His mother and sisters and I have been trying to get him to get it cut for months. On Friday he did. 

He Skyped me to tell me the good news and relayed how it was a rather lovely experience. The barber, who was recommended by a friend, was a little ways from where he lives in Toronto. So he took the subway and made a day of it. Not only was he describing the best burger he ever had but also the haircutting experience itself. Apparently the guy who cut his hair totally ignored my son's suggestion and proceeded to do his own thing. I guess he knew what he was doing and my son was quite pleased with the result. After he finished, he asked that Sam stay and play a game of chess with him. The barber schooled him. My son left feeling quite pleased with the whole day. It was indeed much more than a haircut. It was an experience and a time well spent with a stranger. From the tone of that conversation, he'll be back. 

During this call I was on hold with Alec as we were planning an upcoming event. I briefly shared this story and he told me of a friend of his who decided after taking his share of university classes to open up a barber shop in his home town and cut hair for a living. Alec told me how his friend loved to cut hair and visit with people and painted a picture of one of those places "where everyone knows your name."

The idea of devoting your life to a job like cutting hair somehow doesn't seem like it fits in with all our conversations about global connections and shifted learning. Nor does it fit in with standardized testing and rigorous curriculum. (by the way, I hate the word rigor to describe anything about school)

Which lead me to consider a couple of questions:

1. What could be better than finding a vocation that you enjoy and that allows you to spend time with people connecting and sharing life while providing a useful service?

2. Do our schools help our students seek such a life or do we see a hairstylist as somehow a lesser profession?

3. How did their schooling contribute to the life they lead now? Did it help them become the person they are or did they become that in spite of school?

4. What if we began to measure our schools, not simply at the end of a term or year but for the quality of individuals it serves? Do we want to or need to measure happiness or quality of life?

A Saturday twitter conversation with Will, Bud and Brian got me thinking about the what we need to be paying attention to. Will is currently looking to the edge. I like the edge too. I spend much of my time trying to reach it and see what new opportunities and accordances might be useful to help us learn better and learn more and learn differently. The edge is an important place to explore but these barbers would hardly be considered living on the edge. But in many ways, it's hard to argue they aren't living well. Really, really well. It seems like a nice way to spend a life.