Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Praise of Work II

As I noted in a previous post, Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" is challenging the culture of America that has "waged war on work." In the speech featured on, Rowe offered the enlightened view that "we have collectively agreed, stupidly, that work is the enemy." This is a problem - especially in a country devoted to overspending on the over-education of many people as it shames many skilled workers into thinking they need a bachelor's degree to bring meaning to their lives, and jobs.

In a challenge to this conventional wisdom, Rowe works hard on "Dirty Jobs" to honestly and accurately portray the lives of working people. And there is much insight to his commentary - as he asks us, "Why does the guy picking up roadkill seem like a more enjoyable sort to sit down and share a beer with?"  To that end, Rowe has launched a website devoted to the acknowledgment - if not praise - of work. Check out his site and commentary at

The United States is facing a serious problem with its demeaning attitude toward labor - good old fashioned "work" as a career.  I've been writing about the area where this is most serious which is the myopic focus in schools on college-for-all.  As the nation faces a serious shortage of skilled labor - four million jobs by some counts - millions of young people are steered toward college as the key to "a better job."  However, most people don't need a bachelor degree for work that is meaningful and lucrative.  As the nation lacks welders and electricians, we are putting out too many people with general education degrees.

By the way, a great read on the value of labor is Shopcraft as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford.  This is an excellent reflection on work, and is well worth the read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Michael. Please let your students know that the world needs mechanics, plumbers, carpenters and many other potentially well-paying positions that don't require a college degree.