My definition: Anything that enhances practical life skills, thereby fostering resilience and personal power.
We have far fewer such skills than we used to, for one thing because of a culture that has come to value specialisation, for another because we rely on fossil-fuel-powered machinery, and on people in other countries, to do a lot for us. We have all kinds of abstract skills, and can talk a lot, but don't actually know how to DO anything much anymore. (Just ask anyone older than yourself.) Nor do we have mentors as close at hand anymore.
This is changing somewhat as people post videos online on topics as diverse as changing a tire, crocheting, building a greenhouse and washing dishes (seriously!), but we still don't know half what our generalist grandparents knew. Just look, for example, at the exams they all passed, just to get through elementary school. Do you know how to do the math to create a working drawing, or calculate bushels and pecks? Or even just how to draw or use a scale?
And even if there's a video to give you pointers, wouldn't it be nice -- and infinitely faster, sometimes -- to have other brains and hands nearby to share your dilemmas with? And not have to independently re-invent the wheel every time you have a challenge?
I've always said that one of the main reasons I'm glad I grew up poor was that I actually learned how to do stuff. We had flour and sugar and baking powder and spices in the cupboards, and I actually had to figure out what to do with them. I had to repair my own clothes. I learned how to take apart a favourite pair of pants that were unwearable and use them as a pattern to make a new pair. And so on.
From those comments, you can probably tell I'm a girl. In my generation, girls mostly did the "indoor" stuff; my younger brothers learned how to use the farm equipment, for example.
On the other hand, my stepfather had to learn to knit because there were seven boys in his family and only one girl. He was the one who taught me a dead-simple casting-on trick, in addition to beating me at checkers or rummy while watching TV over my shoulder, "relaxing" after a day at his full-time city job and then coming home to garden and preserve, single-handedly, for nine people, until he fell asleep in his chair. Oh, and he made furniture in his "spare" time. All with what he still insists was a Grade I education. (He had to quit school to work.)
He used to say, "I'm a jack of all trades and master of none." But he sounded all apologetic about it, and he shouldn't have!
At our last meeting we discussed possibilities for holding an upskilling weekend "fair" at some point, which we all thought was a great idea.
But how about between times? There are people all over the county (and everywhere!) who enjoy getting together to fuss over a quilt, an engine, some wood or some pumpkins.
As in a quilting bee, there's lots of room for discussion, but for many of us, the focus is on learning, not just the talking – fun and enlightening though that is, too.
Also, there are a gazillion skills out there that we don't even notice that we have, we're so used to having them. We can create our own upskilling sessions too!
We intend to post notices when we become aware of any gatherings where people can increase and share their experience in any practical way.
So speaking of knitting (I was), look for my next post.
Maybe this idea will grow so well that we'll need to file all our events and skills by keywords, so people can narrow down their searches easily. We'll see.