Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work, Work, Work

As education critics continue to argue about who should go to college, with some decrying the loss of trade schools and the negative attitude toward associate’s degree programs, and others like Bill Gates preaching four-year colleges for everyone, Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel’s “World’s Dirtiest Jobs” presents an insightful commentary on the nature of “work” and how we might just be getting it all wrong. I ran across this on the blog RightWingNation, though it is featured at the website Ted, which features some of the most compelling speeches happening in the world today.

The speech Mike Rowe gives centers around a pretty graphic description of the act of “lamb castration” in the life of a sheepherder in Craig, Colorado. It is rather eye-opening, not to mention eye-brow raising. Yet, the truly interesting part is as Right Wing Prof says, “the best argument against the “everybody needs to go to college” line I have seen.” Rowe describes his epiphany – with a great side-bar on a couple of terms from Greek tragedy – about the nature of “work,” or more importantly, the idea that in America we have declared war on work. We seek to avoid it, work less, retire earlier, etc., etc., etc. There seems to be an entitlement to work less and less, and we have no respect for much of the necessary work. Hence, the derision of trade schools and community colleges, even as white-collar work is outsourced, quality electricians make a mint, and our infrastructure screams for skilled labor.

Rowe concludes he was mis-led and we might be wrong about the advice to “follow your passion.” He’s somewhat right. I followed my passion, rather than my pocketbook, and became a teacher, not a computer administrator. Despite three times the salary, life as a UNIX guru would make me miserable. That said, following passion is one route, but not the only one. Ultimately, people should figure out who they are and be that person. Some people should follow their passions. Some should follow their strengths. And, some should just follow the market and go where their job takes them.

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