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  • Writer's pictureElliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF 6.23.2023

you with me now?” AJ Ryder

This week loads of Harbor Freight Fellows were honored and, in the news, and locally. Maddie Gillissie was on Morning America. You can catch it here. And just today, The Executive Director of American Student Assistance (ASA) Jean Eddy had this quote from Maddie in her blog,


“When I was a senior in high school, I spent three months sailing aboard SSV Harvey Gamage, a 131’ gaff-rigged schooner, up the East Coast from Florida to Maine. It was a magnificent tall ship, but the conditions were rough, with someone sleeping a foot above and below me and no running water or electricity! I felt miserable at first and struggled to adapt, but it was worth it. The experience was part of a hands-on, paid internship I did in high school, affirming that I wanted to pursue a career in marine engineering, which I have.”

Then, this photo of our Harbor Freight Fellows comes in from Newark. Ariana Nieves (Left) and Micah “Tiny” Charles (center) will be coming to Big Bang along with Maddie. Both have become great ambassadors for HFF.



And last on the skilled trades front Viv sent me these photos of Brendan, one of our students in Australia giving his exhibition at A Tinker’s Cuss with his mentor Finlay. There’s a Quantitative Reasoning story Viv told me about Brendan’s use of the Pythagorean Theorem. Brendan was fabricating a metal wheel that needed 28 holes at the edges of the circle equidistant from one another and instead of using string to measure the distance, he found out about and used the Pythagorean Theorem. Now Brendan who is lousy at math in school is finding use for QR at what I call field math. Context and interest matter.


There’s a funny coincidence about this photo of A Tinker’s Cuss and my trip to the Farmer’s Market in San Diego. While leaving the market, I noticed a knife sharpening truck just like in the old days. Now Viv sends me this photo and one of the things they do at A Tinker’s Cuss is knife sharpening. I haven’t seen knife sharpening places in decades. Now I can’t get away from them. What’s old is new.

All this said, today in the Wall Street Journal there was an article about how in this world of chatbot and standardization businesses driven by profit and efficiency are eliminating jobs. But in this article, the argument goes in reverse, maintaining that handmade work will be at a premium because people want objects that are unique – one of a kind - handmade and they will be willing to pay for it. They want keepsakes and objects of their affection. Years ago, Charlie Mojo and I wrote, Standards and Variation: Non-Conforming Our Way to High Quality. One of the stories in the article was about Chicky, a friend of mine who was a potter. She experienced this dichotomy of standards vs variability all the time. People complained because they wanted everything to look exactly the same but the point with pottery or anything handmade is that each piece is different. I’m glad we are finding and focusing young people to become crafts and trades people. There is always a future in this work that carries along with it a strong sense of who you are in the world that gives meaning to your life.

And another important connection that moves us from outcomes to becomes.

Big Ideas: Who Do You Think You Are? is a series in the NY Times. It is important to BPL for lots of reasons given we are working with each young person on the development of the self, not just measured by standardized outcomes but who they become (Becomes not just Outcomes). In Jon Batiste’s essay, “I’m not who you think I am” he decides to take on Juilliard and in a broader sense the entire academy from the “inside out.” By this he means, that his journey has taken him outside the school to discover mastery and change the standard for what mastery means inside the school.

“These changes are a wave that is building and moving the institution closer to the culture. Maintaining the same standard of the highest quality but reaching more young people across the globe.”

Jon Batiste is working edge to center just like we are. He just uses a different method, I love it and think it is great work.

And finally,

While I was waiting for my car to get new shoes, I got a surprise call from Deborah Meier. Deb is now 92 years old, and she is still a firecracker ready to take on the world. I haven’t seen her since Jeff Palladino honored Deb at Fannie Lou Hamer’s 20th Anniversary. Deb started Fannie Lou and we were both there on the opening day of the school. We spoke for 90 minutes about all sorts of things from the state of the world to the state of education. One of the things we talked about was that Central Park East started 50 years ago and she wants to bring everyone together.

Just one other thing….. Deb expressed multiple times how proud she is of the work we are doing at BPL and can’t believe our spread and sustainability.

Next week, we have a big face to face with Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) and a Zoom call with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and ASA.

Be well!

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