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Mike Rowe to Congress: “We need to change the way the country feels about work.”

Mike Rowe to Congress:  “We need to change the way the country feels about work.”

OK, so, maybe it’s a bit crotchety for Friday morning, and I’m doubtlessly preaching to the choir in this forum, but it’s hard not to cheer along with Mike Rowe’s Wednesday testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. I want to quote the whole thing.

It occurred to me that I had become disconnected from a lot of things that used to fascinate me. I no longer thought about where my food came from, or how my electricity worked, or who fixed my pipes, or who made my clothes. There was no reason to. I had become less interested in how things got made, and more interested in how things got bought.

Update: Mike Rowe is coming to Maker Faire. Woohoo!

[via Boing Boing]

Bring back shop class!

24 thoughts on “Mike Rowe to Congress: “We need to change the way the country feels about work.”

  1. Timothy Gray says:

    It’s landing on deaf ears.   Because the problem is the people that actually work are getting paid so little that they dont want to care about work.

    When you work in a hot and dangerous foundry on 2nd shift in a nasty dirty environment, it’s hard to care at $6.95 an hour and you go home to eat Ramen because landlords are greedy and demanding high rent that you can barely pay.  

    1. Andrew Brannan says:

       I think Rowe’s testimony was less about factory work, and more about skilled tradesmen, and it’s telling in a way that most of the replies I’ve seen to this article (in various forums) conjoin the two.  He’s talking about master plumbers, carpenters, electricians, machinists, etc, not about the guy who hand tightens bolt E7 on sub-assembly 4.  Somewhere in our move to a service based economy, we lumped tradesmen in with factory work, and actively discouraged children from pursuing careers in that area.  Vocational Tech programs became dumping grounds for those who couldn’t achieve college, rather than a place for those who may have had a true talent and passion for such things. 

      1. Stephen Carr says:


        that right there is probably the crux of the issue: when i was in high school, you either did “college prep” or “vo-tech”.  there wasn’t a cirruiculum, or area for the lazy, or just plain stupid.  therefore they were put in vo-tech.  that made it become college people, and the stupid.  eventually, no-one wanted to be lumped with the “stupid” kids, so they all went college prep, and due to people not being able to pass college prep course, they dumbed the curriculum down so the baseline could pass.  therefore more and more went college prep, and more and more saw votech as the place for the stupid.  eventually there were not enough students doing vo-tech to warrant the cost and there was only “college prep”.  issue was, “college prep” had become so dumbed down, that it did not in any way prepare you for college.  we just had people graduating,  and working at McDonalds.

        bring back the vo-tech.  they are the FUN jobs.  the jobs you actually have to work at, and can SEE what you done.  they are jobs where you do something, not just sit all day in air conditioning. earn your paycheck.

  2. dethwsh says:

    I agree with Timothy Gray, that people don’t care about work because of low wages and high costs.

    I also believe the fact that Americans work more hours than many other countries.–en/WCMS_071326

    Yet we get paid a penance and have outrageous taxes and bills. And they go up every year. Without our pay going up. Americans are tired of being screwed every which way we turn. No wonder so many people are leaving this dying country.

    Maybe I should follow suit and leave this country as soon as I can afford the exodus tax and moving costs.

    It’s not our view that need to change its the view of our government that needs to. They don’t care about us anymore then slaves.

    1. Anonymous says:

      As a Canadian citizen with homes in canada and the states I can tell you that your taxes are unbelievably fair. In my tax bracket I’m giving the government 50% of my pay check to income tax. Every good I buy is subject to 13% HST tax. 63% of the money I earn goes directly to the government. As well the base price of all our goods are much higher than in the states, to the point where it makes more sense for me to purchase a car in california and drive it to canada (since it saves me 30% of the cost)

      If that works for you and you are a skilled tradesman then canada is perfect for you. Many tradesman here who are working for themselves can make over 100k a year. A pretty comfortable living especially if you enjoy your work.

      And I’ve always found Mike Rowe to be very well spoken and passionate. It’s good to see that he is trying to help others out.

      1. dethwsh says:

        True, there are other countries with it worse off then here (korea), but this country was founded on being free of this type of crap. And yet turned out to be just like every other in respects. Our taxes just seem like a good deal. I get taxed 25% of my paycheck up front. Everthing else, not just goods are taxed as well. Services like; cable, phone/cell, water, sewer, electrical, food, sin tax (cigs and alcohol), state taxes, driving, car ownership. Everything is taxed. Many of which are taxed before its priced to the consumer, driving the price higher. Hell, this can happen multiple times. It seems like a good thing but they gouge you every where you turn. Nothing is sacred. The government has there hands in every transaction. Else it is technically illegal. So if added all those taxes up, I’d say 75% to 85% easily goes to our government, in taxes. Your taxes are also higher due to universal health insurance. Something which I personally pay $300 a month for, just for me. Add $300 per person in my family (at least my companies insurance). Bringing that percentage much higher if included in taxes.

  3. Jerry Carter says:

    I find Mr. Rowe’s testimony refreshing.  I can speak for a portion of the workforce where the work is easy and the pay is good.  It’s sometimes hard to care at this end of the spectrum too.  We’re so over governed by policies, rules, regulations that enjoying work is itself a skill to be mastered.   Over specialization of skills is what is making our society one of consumers.  It used to be that you went to the same Dr. for just about everything.  Now, anything more than a prescription involves a specialist (and the extra cost and overhead).  The same is true for IT.  I have a long list of skills and experiences on my CV (with meaningful hands-on experience to back them up) but still get slotted into a specialized skill position where it’s only through my constant pushing of the envelope that I get to use more than one or two of those skills.  (and the pushing is against the corporate culture that encourages head down non-thinking work).

    So I totally agree with Mr. Rowe.  We as individuals need to think differently about work and corporations would be wise to think differently about workers.  A foundry worker, to use the example, knows more than just the basics of his job.  Changing the way we work in groups to make better use of the total individual will result in more efficient work output and more fulfilled individuals, which I think we all would like to see.

  4. Gabe Shackle says:

    I don’t think it necessarily has anything do with wages, taxes or countries.  It’s the fact that we are all becoming pure consumers.  When nearly everything you use or own is meant to be thrown away, why would you care about how it’s made or where it came from?  We care alot more about the originals and maintenance of things that are meant to last, but how many people own anything that is intended to last?  Why learn how to repair a broken chair leg when you can buy a new chair at Ikea for $14?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Perhaps the key word is ‘care.’ Do we care that the fast as lightning box we bought back when Win 98 was all the rage can still work? Or that several of them could be linked to make either a home network, or  a supercomputer that could give the latest offerings from the big box stores a run for their money. As long as the answer is ‘no,’ I can still  get boxes from curbside, and build my own     :-) 

  5. dw says:

     I hope he washed after that

  6. Loren says:

    On a lighter note – is that Rosanne next to Mike Rowe in that photo? 

  7. Dwayne Edward Mattson says:

    When I was in High School, Vo-Tech didn’t exist, and going anywhere but to college made you a loser.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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