What About the “Dirty Jobs?”

Dear New York State Education Commissioner John King,
Not everyone is career and college ready. Just ask Mike Rowe. At least, not the careers you are thinking of.
Dirty Jobers
Everyone watches a reality show now and then and that’s okay. What do you watch? I watch Deadliest Catch, American Pickers, Storm Chasers, (yes, I am qualifying those are reality shows) and others, but one of the ones I’ve always liked the best is Dirty Jobs, with Mike Rowe.
I’m sure you’ve seen the show or heard about it, but if not there is a homemade video compilation of the “best clips” below. Mike has traveled America examining some of the jobs that our fellow American workers do, many of which don’t require a career or college ready path. Does that mean they aren’t productive workers? Great citizens? Hard working? Happy? Nope, not at all. In fact, probably almost every one of those dirty workers has made a long career with many staying with the same employer for dozens of years. While it is true that one can generally earn more money in employment after obtaining a college degree (sometimes), that doesn’t equate to success or happiness in my mind. Maybe we shouldn’t be pushing everyone who graduates high school immediately towards college. Maybe we should be trying to find the right fit for each person and not be disappointed if that doesn’t mean college.

Here on Long Island, NY with a 2010 US Census population of a little over 2.8 million people in our two counties (Nassau and Suffolk, not counting Queens and Brooklyn which are part of New York City) only 32% of the population, in each county, has earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher.  Those under 18 years old make up roughly 24% of the population in each county. So, that’s a lot of workers and citizens with no college degree going about their daily lives. I can’t be certain that this is a “good” or “bad” thing. We’ve been pretty fortunate here on the Island during the economic downturn our nation has been riding out the last few years. The hard times, so to speak, haven’t hit us as hard as in other parts of the nation. At least through my eyes. (Data source: here and here)

So what’s my point here? I don’t think the new Common Core curriculum leaves room for the students who might head into one of these “dirty jobs.” I have no data to back that statement up and only time will tell, but I think by simply stating over and over again that all we are doing is prepping kids for college or careers (I am making the assumption these are white collar type careers) and it is “urgent”, we are taking the chance of leaving behind thousands of those who might not be suited for that environment. The focus of education should not be to create little worker bees for American corporations. The focus of education should be to expand the mind, inspire creativity, spark curiosity, and develop good citizens. From what I’ve seen of homework for two of my kids in the last two years, and from the work they do in school, there is zero creativity. It is one worksheet after another, even for my kindergartner. Coloring in shapes, images, and pictures on a ditto is not an example of letting a child’s creativity flow. Not one of these dirty jobs requires worksheet completion found in a Pearson workbook or printed off from an engageNY web page.

Were any of the employers featured in any one of the Dirty Jobs episodes involved in the development of the Common Core Standards? Or, was it just big business and huge corporations who were involved? Are we, as a nation currently implementing the Core, looking to kill these dirty jobs as if they aren’t significant or relevant anymore? Here we are in the high-tech information age and American schools don’t even have computer science courses woven into most high school curriculum, let alone the middle and elementary ages. We’ll watch the next few years as the likes of App Academy replace the college option for many of our brightest students. I predict a similar model will appear for the trades as well to help fill the employment gaps.

Watch the full interview below with Mike Rowe on the high cost of college.

Then read (and watch) one of the many interviews with Mike during the fall of 2013 where he talks about the need for skilled workers, college debt, and more.  Or, watch his 2008 TED talk. Maybe we are going about these educational reforms in all the wrong way. It might be time to step back and watch where everyone is going … and head the other way.


U.S. Unemployment: Three Million Jobs are Waiting to be Filled (here)

“My goal here is to challenge the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for the most people, and confront the outdated stereotypes that continue to drive kids and parents away from a whole list of worthwhile careers,” Rowe said. “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma.” Check out more at one of Mike’s many web sites devoted to connecting skilled workers with in-demand jobs: Profoundly Disconnected.

Guest Spot: Board of Regents creating ‘education apartheid’
by Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen

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