Workin’ Class Blues

Over at Rod Dreher’s blog there is an interesting discussion on the trades.

He points out that one the one hand, the American educational system denigrates the trades. Kids who have no business going to college are encouraged by teachers and guidance counselors to spend vast sums of money on degrees of questionable value, when they could be making good money, debt free, right out of high-school had they attended vocational school.

Dreher then proposes another perspective: before you send your kids off to trade school you have to realize that people in the trades are often, well, a little rough around the edges: crude, rude, and are of course racist/sexist/homophobes, the unholy Trinity of modern sinfulness. If your child is delicate and sheltered, he might be too sensitive for such an environment. (I hope he does not take this point seriously. Had I as a teen told my business executive father that I didn’t want a certain job because the other employees were lowly ruffians he would have disowned me.)

At any rate, he explains, it is clear that people in the trades are from a class that is suffering all the effects of our declining culture, from drug abuse to rampant divorce.

I have some experience in this area, so I left a comment:

I went from eleven years of working for the church to working on a factory floor. Yes, there was a tiny bit of a culture shock with the crudity of the some of the workers, but I had worked in those kinds of environment as a teenager, and it is not like everyone working the floor is that way. I know some very polite machinists and assembly-line guys. And now that I have a more clerical job I see that what the guys on the floor shout, the people with desk jobs whisper.

I can’t understand someone from a sheltered background being scandalized – how sheltered can a person possibly be? And if they are that sheltered, how does someone else being crude affect them? It might be a temptation to lower one’s standards to the environment, I know I sometimes cuss terribly at work and carry that over into other areas of my life, but your choices and behavior are still your own.
And here is another thing: some of these guys might make raunchy jokes, abuse pot (or some even coke) and drink too much, but they also have productive jobs and are trying to keep their kids in school and on a decent track. Crude or polite they all work hard, if they didn’t they would be unemployed. Some of them would be making more money collecting unemployment, but they chose to work out of simple self-respect. They know the line between their lower-middle class lifestyle and a poor chaotic lifestyle is a thin one, and that they can’t stray too far. They look down on men who don’t work hard, who don’t sacrifice for their kids, or who let their lives fall apart because of heroin or alcoholism. They all have relatives on welfare or dead from drug overdoses, and they are caught between anger, pity, and fear that will happen to their own kids.
These are the guys, by the way, who are voting Trump.

The truth is I am much more comfortable around these guys than around academics (which I almost once was) or around executives (which I might very well end up as). I don’t ascribe to them virtues they don’t possess, but I am not going to dump on them for being rude.



  1. I’m so glad people are starting to have this conversation. Even Einstein said if he had to do it all over, he would have become a plumber. A lot of blue collar work pays nearly as well as jobs requiring degrees. We’ve always had a lot of doctors around here, but there’s a far greater demand for electricians who cost nearly as much and are about 8 weeks out. Entrepreneurial skills are fabulous too, even simple things, becoming a window washer, landscaping. It’s really sad that we’re encouraging all kids to go into debt, training for jobs that don’t even exist, to get educations they may never use.

  2. I liked what you wrote- then I read the ridiculous comment. I expect excellent things from you; none of which regard plumbing. Are we clear? I don’t really care that you’re uncomfortable. Get over it.

  3. I have no idea what Pink is going on about, but than again, Pink is always going on about something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: