SKATEBOARDING HAS AN EDUCATION PROBLEM

We Have the Time to Fix It + a Weird Example That Isn't That Weird.

If you’re a subscriber or lurker of Artless Industria® you’re aware that my posts fluctuate between issue-based topical themes and lighter looks and observations of skateboarding. I often feel guilty writing about a video part or a photo or anything nostalgic as I’d rather focus on ideas but they don’t always come. 

I’ll be posting something that addresses my last entry which you can read here, as I’m waiting for some folks to get back to me and also taking my time as I want it to provide the proper insight, perspective, and utility it deserves.

This brings us to a larger issue so obvious that I never thought to address it in a post but here we are and if you’re in the United States, “here” is confusing. Everything. Part of the confusion is black-and-white thinking. 

If you believe science and facts, you are wondering why the fuck people won’t wear masks and are dying for bars to be open. The bar thing really gets me because I’ve heard several bar owners talking about how “being on lockdown is causing people psychological damage and suicide rates are going up,” and alcohol is like… not really a solve for those things being a depressant and all.

If you distrust science and facts, you may believe that the COVID-19 lockdown is a liberal ruse being used to discredit the President of the United States.

So here we are and few are interested in the other’s stance mostly because it’s exhausting. In my observations, I’ve found that answers come from motivation and most of the outspoken conspiracy spreaders or alternative-views if you want to be kinder, have a vested interest to open the economy or schools or bars or whatever freedoms they feel are being violated.

They are athletes, massive corporations, small business owners, entertainers, and many others who cannot generate revenue or work in their profession right now. They also hate that teachers are getting “free money” right now to stay home and accuse unions of resisting reopenings because they are greedy but they themselves are definitely not greedy.

And skating is hitting a strange point. We want shops to survive, we want brands to keep going, and in general, everyone to keep rolling safely. There are rumors of factories slowing down production due to infections. Creating new content is a gray area. Events and contests are canceled and games of skate on Instagram just aren’t compelling. 

It’s giving us more time to look at what skateboarding is and what it’s becoming. A lot of that energy has been channeled to activism. This is a good thing for several reasons and one that’s less obvious is that it circumvents the skateboarding industry entirely. You don’t need a brand’s approval to vote or to protest and if they want to support skateboarders, that’s fine but it’s not imperative—they have a lot of shit to figure out.

And regular folks do to and it starts with the most obvious problem in skateboarding that also mirrors the pain points of the United States: Education.

We live in a society where the education system feels antiquated, severely flawed, and massively expensive. Higher education is accessed mostly by privilege and many younger people are realizing that the jobs they are preparing for have yet to be invented, so what the fuck is school going to offer? In the past you could argue that the entire experience of learning is the learning—you’re exposed to new things, new people, new ideas, and new ways of looking at learning itself. COVID-19 has made this experience less rich and more isolating, so while there’s a good reason to want to have personal interaction, it’s not possible right now and we’re spending more time on Zoom, watching YouTube, reading, calling people, and arguing. 

So. Much. Fucking. Arguing.

If you look at skateboarding as an industry and a community, there’s historically been very little value on education. Most company owners learn as they go and while the DIY spirit is admirable, it can also be detrimental to the growth of a company and the progression of skateboarding as a whole. 

The only qualifications to be involved in the industry are personal perception, intuition, learned experience, and intangibles such as “that kid just has it.” It works until it doesn’t. Women are rarely hired in roles that have been dominated by men. It’s not resume based hiring and if you don’t hire people, they can’t have the experience anyway. Fuck, it’s not even based on logic at times as many companies don’t even have a business plan. 

Much of skating is based on perception not metrics and we can all agree that’s neither an efficient or helpful model.

Also, if we think of skating as some type of sport, it’s one that really hates learning. 

“Fuck college, you can go later. You gotta ride this out now! You’re not even in your prime!”

But why? So you can go on a two-week skate tour? So you can film? So you can travel? 

All these things are possible while going to school or with a full-time job as many pro skaters will tell you because they need jobs to survive. 

Major sports have age requirements but they are a strange comp as they vary and many argue that kids should be able to bypass college to make money because average careers are short. Depending on where you are from, that money can be life-changing. But in skateboarding, there is no signing bonus and few guaranteed contracts so the money is a big if. IF if you want to go for it and focus solely on skating, you might get paid but you also could end up in a state of arrested development, eventually having to assimilate into the “real world” and fuck, that’s hard for many. Many. We only have to watch a few Epicly Later’d episodes and take in the “what I should have done” sentiments to realize this.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have a Bachelors Degree in Visual Art. I took some journalism and writing classes. I took zero data analysis classes and suck at math. Those are skills I chose to work on independently, yet, I am able to write for several publications and I am constantly reminded that I am not a great writer or even a serviceable one by so many kind commenters. 

*side note: when you post in the Jenkem comments or whatever and say that someone isn’t a good writer, you’re actually being a shitty writer because that’s a cliché / lazy take—just a free pro-tip® for you.

In looking at the business of skateboarding, it’s severely flawed for a company owner or team manager who has a salary or set income to tell Person X that they should solely focus on skating because that is driven by looking at them as a commodity. Sure, you might personally like that commodity and actually be friends with them or even mentor them but they are an investment. It’s fucked when you think of it that way. 

Skateboarding is extremely cerebral yet it rarely celebrates thinking.

If we look at all the online arguments, shitposting, and overall problems, they all stem from a lack of “education” or the drive to be an asshole/troll. I put this in quotes because it’s not about what degree you have but rather, what critical thinking skills you possess, what you’ve been exposed to, and how you have learned to resolve conflict and for many skaters, those skills are lacking because of the bubble they exist in.

And for many, that bubble is called California. In a ranking done by the Washington Post that you can call flawed because it’s the WaPo if you like, California was ranked 34 in overall intelligence. You can look here for all the criteria and decide if it’s valid but for this post, it’s going to be enough of a metric to get some perspective and pull some insights.

While thinking about how being dumb is so problematic in skating I had a really dumb idea: Are we spreading COVID-19 at psycho rates in the US because we are stupid?

The short answer is yes and the bigger thought is maybe it’s a problem we can fix by being educated and if that works it’s a decent way to approach… everything. I mean, sure, this post isn’t going to do anything but looking at numbers is fun and shit and I was not only curious but the idea of making a chart seemed like an awesome waste of time. So I did and then I dug further because we are all consumed by COVID-19 and the US, in particular, is an epic shit show but why? Could it be that we’re misinformed by the CDC or our leadership? A combo of both? 

Are we simply not doing the things that are working in other countries? Yes, there are variables but there is a general scientific consensus on how lockdowns and distancing slows the spread of the virus and in many cases and a fun fact is that countries led by women have been the most effective. (Yup, peep the link).

I looked at new cases by state for the week of July 6 and then I circled back two weeks later to see if there were spikes based on the prediction that people wouldn’t follow guidelines. To make it more interesting, I broke the totals out down the middle, as per the WaPo’s intelligence rankings.

I bet these results will and won’t shock you.

TOP 25 New Case Totals

Week of July 6: 10,351

Most Recent Data: 82,231

BOTTOM 25 New Case Totals

Week of July 6: 48,452

Most Recent Data: 374,640

Chew on that for a minute. 

I chose this analysis for a piece about skateboarding because we can all agree that the US isn’t slowing down COVID-19’s spread. If you don’t believe COVID-19 is real, I have nothing for you though. I’m really sorry. This is a fact-based survey, not a “research” based on. 

What I want to impart on you is that lack of education is causing all of us—skateboarders included—a lot of pain and anguish in every aspect of our lives. We obviously can’t reform education or better it instantly but perhaps we can think about it more now and what that means going forward and make tweaks in our lives to help all the tension. The amount of information that was and is being spread about systematic racism in the United States alone is a measure of how uninformed we all are.

People had to deadass make FLASHCARDS for Instagram to explain what racism is or how to use pronouns and a massive thank you to everyone who makes, shares, and consumes these posts. Keep it doing all of that, please.

Here we are. Most people don’t understand how the economy works, how a President is actually elected, what science is, what our data is being used for. or why inequality is a very real thing built into our society.

In skating we talk about “the industry,” we criticize it, often without realizing that it’s barely a thing. There is no cohesion or larger organization or code of ethics or pay visibility or in many cases even contracts. It’s one big bro-deal and that’s fine. 

Let’s not worry about it at all because what we do have right now is time and that surplus can be used to… I dunno, learn some shit.