Kevin Kelly on “subterranean tutoring”

Kevin Kelly on “subterranean tutoring”

Kevin Kelly has an awesome little piece on Geekdad about what he calls “subterranean tutoring.” This excerpt explains the concept by way of example:

Science fiction author Neal Stephenson once told me something memorable as we were hanging out in his back yard. He pointed to an unfinished kayak under a tarp. He said he was slowly working on it, in part to mentor his kids, even though they did no work on the boat, nor express the least bit of interest in this project. None-the-less he continued puttering on the undertaking while they were home. Stephenson said when he was a kid, his dad was constantly tinkering on some garage project or another, and despite Neal’s complete indifference for any of his dad’s enthusiasms at the time, he was influenced by this embedded tinkering. It was part of the family scene, part of his household, like mealtime style, or the pattern of interactions between siblings. Later on when Neal did attempt to make stuff on his own, the pattern was right at hand. It felt comfortable, easy. Without having to try very hard, he knew how to be a nerd.

I’ve found this pattern in my own life (emulating my father’s work and shop behaviors that I was utterly indifferent to as a child) and I take great comfort in this fact when I see my own son’s apathy towards my “subterranean tutoring.”

Subterranean Tutoring – Link

3 thoughts on “Kevin Kelly on “subterranean tutoring”

  1. Russell Nelson says:

    Hmmm… This definitely applies to the relationship between my father and I, and it *may* apply to the relationship between me and my son. Only time will tell on the latter.

  2. EricS says:

    I recently realized that my dad and I have the same relationship. The difference is he keeps old golf course sprinkler heads and irrigation boxes around for projects, and I just keep monitors and old stereo equipment.

  3. Dro Kulix says:

    Interesting… but how is this “subterranean”?

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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