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Mike Rowe on the divide between blue and white collar jobs

October 26, 2010

During my time amongst the so-called “academic elite”, I was sometimes reminded of a unique difference in background and experiences with some of my peers – while I was working in an “intellectual” field, the abstract, disconnected world of academia, I came from a very much blue collar background.  When I was young, I would occasionally work with my father, digging ditches, roofing houses, pouring concrete, and otherwise backbreaking labor.  While my general physical laziness drove me to take the long path of academia, trying to escape that sort of work for a “better life”, I learned more and more to appreciate the simple pleasure of making something with your own two hands, and leaving your job behind at the end of the day.

Like Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, I think our society has lost some perspective on that kind of work.  There was a time when we appreciated hard labor, thought it was something to be proud of, a man breaking his back to provide for his family, and it seems the more we move forward, the more we think of those as the leftover jobs, the ones you take when you can’t do anything else.  And that is sad.

From a purely financial standpoint, with the plummeting value of a college education combined with the rising cost of obtaining said education, many college students would have been better off learning a skilled trade, getting a good solid paying job right out of high school, and moving on to real life, rather than living in poverty, uncertain about the future for 4,5, or even 10 years.  Unfortunately, our society has come to look down on those jobs as a lesser existence, and many could be missing out on what can be a very full and rewarding life, due to the stigma attached.

Mike says it much better than I do, and he was recently interviewed by, where he described the unfortunate differences in the way we look at blue and white collar jobs, and how we should place more value on an honest day’s work.  If you are interested in learning a trade yourself, it’s never too late to do so, and Mike has started a great resource you can use as a starting place, at


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