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Ross Nelson, Published February 18 2012

Nelson: Do-it-yourself missing from MCE courses

Perusing the Moorhead Community Education catalog is a pleasant moment or two. There are various classes on cooking (my wife even teaches one of these), learning new languages, music and computer training, just to list a few. Artsy-craftsy things for the most part, with a few practical classes, too. Nothing wrong with any of them. But I find the offerings, compared to those from years ago, to be a little fluffy.

In recent years, I’ve taken classes such as winter camping, bicycle repair and estate executor preparation. But there was a time when MCE, or what we used to call continuing adult education classes, offered much more substantial, do-it-yourself training.

Classes I took in the early 1980s were cardiopulmonary resuscitation (the real deal, with dummies we wiped with alcohol after each round) and carpentry, in an effort to diminish my handyman-challenged ineptness. My motto then and now is “measure twice, curse thrice.” There was the automatic wire welding class in which I gained a great deal of respect for welders. Our patient instructor repeatedly told me, as I spattered weld all over and in general made more smoke and mess than bead, to tune in the wire feed speed and the amperage so that the welding sounded like bacon sizzling in the pan. He made it look effortless. My sputtering welding sounded more like sporadic rain on steel. I never did get the hang of it, and wire welding is supposed to be the easiest kind.

Boiler engineering sounded interesting, so I took that, too, followed by the Minnesota state exam. I passed, and for one glorious year was a licensed boiler engineer in Minnesota.

These were all welcome, down-to-earth courses that contrasted nicely with my college classes. These and other offerings were doomed to extinction, however. When I returned to the Fargo-Moorhead area after about a nine-year absence and again looked into continuing adult education, such classes were by and large gone. The Moorhead education person I questioned about the curricula change told me that there was some unhappiness on the part of Moorhead Tech (as we called it), now the absurdly over-named Minnesota State Community and Technical College-Moorhead, about possibly losing students to the night adult classes.

It’s really too bad. The Milwaukee night machinist adult education class I took (and in which I destroyed my lathe’s cutting bit) turned out to be a little part of the full-time machinist vocational program. In other words, though I didn’t verify if there were a one-to-one correspondence, in this and other programs a student could get most or all of a full-time program bit by bit at night under adult ed.

Why not reintroduce practical subjects again in the MCE – how to replace a clutch, tape drywall decently, install plumbing and dozens of others? Some of us could use the help.


Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.