Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe and conceptions of work

Excellent post about skilled manual labor from carpentrix


Last week, Mike Rowe, the guy who hosts the show Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, spoke in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, making a lucid, clear-eyed case for a national PR campaign for skilled labor. We’ve marginalized the trades, he argued. It’s time to elevate them, to close the widening skills gap, to combat the idea of the trades being “best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree.”

He talked about his grandfather —- a plumber, mechanic, electrician, magician —- and how now, when his own toilet’s busted, he leaves a check on the table and never meets the plumber. He talked about how disconnected he’s become from how things get made or fixed. He (I, we, most of us sitting around reading blogs) don’t have to think about where the food comes from, or how the wires work, or who made the pair of pants or fixed the pipes. It’s been said before, sure, all about the way our relationship to the things we use goes only as far as flipping on the light, flushing the toilet, or turning the key in the ignition.

“In a hundred different ways,” he said, “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.”

I do think that a shift is starting to take place. It’s most evident maybe with food right now, but I suspect that people are going to start recognizing the importance (and deep pleasure) of acquiring some know-how about the way things work.