We’ve long been fans of Discovery Channel’s series, Dirty Jobs. Host Mike Rowe, with his quick, dry wit, is the good-natured trainee for all sorts of jobs guaranteed to gross out or freak out and, most definitely, get him and his temporary co-workers filthy. Whether it’s cleaning out a sewage tank, breeding horses (which is not done the way one might think), or raising mealworms, Mike is not afraid to get dirty…or do things that other people might think are beneath them.
I invite you to go read the article. Mike states the issue much better than I could. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Are you back? Okay, just in case you didn’t really go read the article (and you should), the gist of it is that we, as a nation, have placed so much emphasis on a college education and professional jobs, while thumbing our noses at trades that there is now a huge skills gap resulting in 200,000 open manufacturing jobs and 450,000 trades, transportations, and utilities with no one to fill those jobs. Mike sums it up nicely when he says,
“In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of ‘higher education’ to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree.”
He goes on to say that,
“In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a ‘good job’ into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber if you can find one is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.”
My Papaw worked in the steel mills, my Granddaddy was a carpenter, my step-dad was a mechanic and my dad a carpenter for many years. These were not uneducated men who settled because they weren’t cut out for college. They were hard-working men who didn’t mind getting dirty to support their families.
When did that become second-class?
Last week, I had something that I needed to disassemble in order to put it into the trash for garbage collection. I found the right tool, but I needed something to hold the bolt on the other end to keep it from turning while I loosened the first end. I couldn’t figure out what I needed and Brian was at work, so I waited until Josh woke up and asked him.
He came out to the garage, took about 5 seconds to assess the situation, then confidently walked over to the tool box, pulled out a tool, and got to work. He had it apart in under 2 minutes. I was so proud of him for a couple of reasons: 1) I knew he’d know exactly how to take the thing apart and 2) I could see his complete confidence in the fact that he knew what he was doing.
Later, when he was reading aloud to me and I felt like banging my head against the wall (reading delays and probable dyslexia are not fun, y’all), I remembered the Mike Rowe article. I am a strong believer in kids having a firm grasp of the basics: reading, writing, and math. However, I am also a strong believer in encouraging each child in his or her God-given area of giftedness. I strongly suspect that my son was created to work with his hands.
While my goal will be to give him a “college prep” education (because I love what Lee Binz says about that: either I’m preparing my kids to be college-ready or I’m providing them with the highest level of education they’ll receive, so I need to make it a good one), I will not consider an apprenticeship, vocational training, or a trade school to be settling for second-best.
Our country needs men and women who are not afraid to get dirty doing an honest days’ work and we need to quit treating them like second-class citizens because their skills are vital to our economy and our way of life.