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Vassilenko

Elizabeth Vassilenko
Professor Emily Bruey
English 100
December 17, 2011
Blue-Collar vs. White-Collar
Two diet cokes for table 302, a printed check for 303, napkins, ketchup, two sides of
mayonnaise, and a sprite for 106. Table 304 needs a menu, a re-fill on their water, and the
womans steak to be re-cooked. The grilled salmon for table 301 must be checked on and brought
out immediately to the man on the left and table 305 needs to speak with the manager. This is
what a normal day at works sounds like for me: hectic. Waitressing requires multi-tasking, a
good memory, time-management skills, social skills, and a large amount of patience. Although
all these things dont require one to be book-smart, it does require a different kind of
intelligence, hard work, and a lot of effort, therefore formal education is not a necessity. That is
the true meaning of valuable work. After I read Mike Roses essay titled Blue-Collar
Brilliance, I instantly found myself one hundred percent relatable to his waitress of a mother.
Mike Rose argues against societys perception that to be intelligent, you must have a
proper education. However, Rose mentions that there are a lot of hard-working, intelligent, bluecollar people who have many difficult skills, as he mentioned, like his own mother. Workers
must also know the characteristics of the material they are engaging-how it reacts to various
cutting or compressing devices, to degrees of heat, or to lines of force. Some of these things
demand judgment, the weighing of options, the consideration of multiple variables, and
occasionally, the creative use of a tool in an unexpected way (Rose 313).

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Although waitressing is considered a blue-collar job and does not require college
education, it is still intellectually challenging. In contrast to my and Roses view, society often
ends up defining intelligence solely on grades in school and numbers on IQ tests (Rose 312).
Societys view on blue-collar versus white-collar jobs is that to be intelligent, one must be
educated. The kind of job someone has plays a huge role today and how people are viewed based
on what job they have. Societys definition of worthy work is a job that makes one seem
superior to others, almost heroic, for what they do. These people often hold the title of a police
officer, a fire fighter, a surgeon, a detective, a lawyer, and so forth.
It may seem silly to be a plumber, a janitor, or the garbage man solely because they
are dirty jobs and they are looked down upon as people who are of low rank professions.
Those under the low rank status can be identified by a uniform (blue-collar) and are assumed
to have little intelligence and no education. They are looked down upon because society does not
let them be seen as people with power and money, although most of these low rank
professions, such as plumbers, make great income. In The Case for Working with Your Hands,
Matthew Crawford argues that blue-collar jobs such as mechanics make more money or the same
amount of money as most white-collar jobs. These blue-collar jobs are often called necessityjobs, because they are seen as being requirement jobs for the world. Crawford attempts to show
the reader that When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise
often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. (Crawford 395).
He proves his argument to the reader when he shares that We idealize them as the salt of
the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail (Crawford 396). The
reason for this is that blue-collar jobs are the ones we depend on to get us through everyday
dilemmas, for example, fixing the toilet or changing the oil. These are the jobs that come in

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more handy since they are the ones we need on a regular day-to-day basis. Societys
perspective on the issue of income is very distorted, as making great income and white-collar
jobs are thought to go hand-in-hand.
Aside from the money aspect, these blue-collar workers also enjoy what they do each day
on the job. Their customers, or society can often recognize their effort and hard work, that which
is the epitome of valuable work. Based on my own experience being a waitress, I manage to get
things done each day on the job and make the customers happy with the service, that being the
most important part. My job as a waitress and Crawfords as a mechanic are similar in that we
both believe The core experience is one of individual responsibility, supported by face-to-face
interactions between tradesman and customer (Crawford 401). Many of us do work that feels
more surreal than real (Crawford 395) because at the end of the day, most white-collar workers
will say that there was no significant amount of work completed or importance in the work itself.
These white-collar workers find it difficult to see any tangible result (Crawford 395) from their
efforts. Crawford stresses that point as he poses the question to those white-collar people, What
exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? (Crawford 395) An answer is
usually never given in response, since there is no significant work accomplished or effort given.
The reason for their lack of response is due to the fact that they fall short on effort, skills,
and hard work, which are the components of valuable work, not education or formal intelligence.
The unfortunate but extremely realistic idea has been that The imperative of the last 20 years to
round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the
future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information
economy (Crawford 395). The world we live in today has focused so much attention on whitecollar jobs and how important it is to become one of these cubicle-sitting-workers that blue-

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collar jobs have nearly been forgotten and pushed out of the way. We (society) focus only on the
most respected, high class, jobs and rely on the idea of education defining intelligence, and
as a result, blue-collar jobs have mysteriously disappeared from a list of possible jobs. Crawford
explains in schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to
be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to
learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will
not be engaged (Crawford 396). He stresses that blue-collar jobs are the ones that are the
epitome of valuable work, work that is done with your hands and given the chance to use
something other than just your brain. Crawford reinforces this idea when he says A good job
requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the
world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this (Crawford 404), referring to the fact that in
order for it to be considered valuable work, it must be work that comes from ones hard effort,
work, and skill, and uses a different kind of intelligence.
Both Crawford and Rose believe in the importance of blue-collar jobs in this world and
that without them, there really is nothing behind the meaning of valuable work. The idea of
education being tied to intelligence is merely what society believes and that white-collar is the
only route for students at schools and colleges to consider for their futures. However, since there
is more than just academic intelligence, more to work than just the pay, and more to creativity
than just what the brain comes up with, blue-collar workers should receive more respect and
more recognition for their hard work and efforts.
Many will argue that education is vital and necessary in order to achieve success in the
future and will argue against the idea of different kind of intelligence, since they believe the
only important type of intelligence is through school (book-smart). They will argue that in order

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for one to obtain a successful, respectable job, they must go through school and if this route it not
taken, they will not be happy or satisfied with their lives and will be stuck trying to obtain a
job. All of these points are not looked at carefully and are extremely bias against blue-collar
workers and those who did not need school education to get to where they want to be in life.
Education is something in this world that does not come cheap, and one must pay
thousands of dollars to receive some kind of higher education. Many are not able to afford it, and
many simply do not want to waste money on education when they know they do not need it for
the job they want. The chaos with making college affordable is often seen as a burden and a daily
problem in todays world. In a newspaper titled Community College Week, Paul Bradley writes,
At a time when President Obama has called for producing 5 million more community graduates
by 2020, and two-year colleges cope with record-high enrollments, higher education spending is
withering across the country. He continues to make his point, A downward trend in higher
education spending has taken hold, and colleges are struggling to hire more professors and
adjuncts and to provide needed services to students. Some colleges are capping enrollments and
turning students away. This being said, education only creates headaches, figuratively said, and
strips money from your wallets, as well as turning away students, essentially refusing them an
education.
A more vital focus on why education is not necessary for future success, aside from the
economic part of it, is that there are over one hundred blue-collar jobs out there and most make
the same amount of money as white-collar jobs, if not more. Joe Lamacchia, the author of the
book Blue Collar & Proud of It, said in a USA Today interview that Carpenters, electricians,
plumbers [high-paid jobs]. My brother-in-law is making 60,000 to 7,000 a year installing heating
and air-conditioning units. Guys throwing trash are making 50,000 a year theyre not living out

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of an airport/suitcase. Its a nice life. He also gives a brief description of his education and
proves that education is not a necessity for kids just coming out of high school. He says, I
graduated high school by the skin of my teeth I had ADHD and couldnt sit still in school. I
couldnt comprehend. I loved digging ditches and (using) chain saws. I like being in the zone. I
like working outside. Its very skilled work. Like mentioned, blue-collar work is defined by the
skill it takes to perform the job, rather than book-smart intelligence and education.
Lastly, and to my opinion, most importantly, those who work a blue-collar job usually do
not regret not going to school and find their jobs pleasant; something they look forward to every
day. Blue-collar work is something that is mostly hands-on, instead of butt-being-glued-tochair office type of work. In a May 2010 U.S. News & World Report titled Ditching the Office
for the Outdoors, Ben Baden states For many workers, years of sitting in a cubicle and staring
at a computer screen have become monotonous and boring. Some, like Liberatos (construction
worker), have traded in their suits for jeans, chosen a more active lifestyle, and made the
transition into blue-collar jobsdefined as occupations that involve manual labor and typically
an hourly wage. Those who perform blue-collar jobs chose that specific job for a reason,
whether it be that they love the outdoors, building things with their hands, traveling, or helping
people fix broken machinery/appliances and such. These people skipped college with the mindset
that they rather not be stuck in an office cubicle for the next 40 years of their lives, but doing
what they love and are best at (hands on type of work), which does not require an education.
So instead of throwing away their money on a higher education when a higher education is not
needed for their occupation, they are being smarter and saving that money and going straight into
their work environment. After all, why question their choices if these are the people who are

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fixing our toilets, expanding our houses, making our lawns look beautiful, at the same time
keeping a smile on their faces because this is what they love to do?

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Annotated Bibliography
Crawford, Matthew B. The Case for Working with Your Hands. Acting Out Culture. Ed. James
Miller. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 395-405. Print.
Crawfords story explains the importance of dirty jobs and how crucial they are in
everyday life. He draws attention to the fact that people who work with their hands for a living,
love what they do and much rather do labor work than sit in an office cubicle, hardly
accomplishing anything after the day is over. Crawford shows the reader that labor work is just
as necessary as jobs that are not labor intensive, if not more.
Many students find this text easy to read, enjoyable, and very easy to agree with. It shows
how hard some people have to work, especially the fact that they are not doing white-collar
work. Personally, I found this story to be exceptionally well written and it made the reader really
feel for those people who perform labor-intensive work every single day.

Bradley, Paul. A Dearth of Dollars. Community College Week. February 2010. Print.
Community College Week is a daily newspaper conversing about topics that interest and
relate to the community of college students. A Dearth of Dollars focused on the chaos and
mess economically of college with both pay and the fact that schools are turning away students
(rejecting them). President Barack Obama is also in this article, talking about the concerning
issues and what we will have to do to fix them.
I felt that I needed to use this article as an aid to my paper and it really did help when I
was attempting getting some research on blue-collar workers and how education is not necessary
for future success. The article had some great points that I could add to my paper and back it up
with proper information and proof.

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Thompson, Erin. Q&A: Should More Students be Blue Collar & Proud of It? USA Today. June
2009. Print.
A USA Today interview with a man named Joe Lamacchia, author of Blue Collar &
Proud of It, a blue-collar worker who discussed his views on work. Views were brought up
about education, salary, shortage of blue-collar workers, interest in occupation, and the sole
purpose of loving your job and wanting to do it every day.
His responses and work ethic made me gain much more respect for blue-collar workers
than before reading the interview. Everything he said was honest and truthful and by the way he
talks about blue-collar work and his own job, you can tell he loves what he does and carries a lot
more respect for blue-collar workers than white-collar workers.

Rose, Mike. Blue-Collar Brilliance. Acting Out Culture. Ed. James Miller. 2nd ed. Boston:
Bed/St. Martin's, 2011. 309-14. Print.
Blue-Collar Brilliance shows the difference between white-collar jobs and blue-collar
jobs and stresses the fact that our world needs blue-collar workers to survive. Mike Rose talks
about blue-collar workers having a different kind of intelligence than white-collar workers, but
being on the same level of intelligence nevertheless. He also includes education and the fact that
even though many blue-collar workers did not attend college or do not need to, they have more
skill in multi-tasking, social skills, and are specialized in their particular field of labor.
This was a very useful source to my paper and it was an interesting text that changed my
view on blue-collar jobs as a whole. The information contained in the text was reliable and the
fact that he included his mother waitressing was crucial since he mentioned the different skills

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she acquired from working in restaurant business. Since I myself am a waitress, I found BlueCollar Brilliance enjoyable to read and liked the fact that I could relate to it.

Baden, Ben. "Ditching the Office for the Outdoors - US News and World Report." Business
News and Financial News - US News Business. U.S.News & World Report, 15 Apr. 2010.
Web. 17 Dec. 2011.
<http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2010/04/15/ditching-the-office-forthe-outdoors>.