Mike Rowe Senate Testimony, Some Ideas for Building a Strong America and an Ecology of Jobs

Mike Rowe, creator, executive producer, and host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, gave testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 11, 2011. I like Mr. Rowe and his show. He goes places and does things that most of us might not want to do. He also goes places and does things that most of us might not even have imagined! Furthermore, he does things on his show with men and women with unique and necessary skill sets that American society in general puts down or disregards. As Mr. Rowe outlines in his testimony before the Senate committee, we are placing our country at a disadvantage by promoting some kinds of training (i.e., university education) over others (i.e., vocational and trade skills). Furthermore, we owe it to those people who make our modern technologically driven world possible to recognize what they do, make an effort at understanding what they do, and support the furthering development of those lines of work in order to further develop our country. Dreams are not small when someone chooses a trade or skill that will provide them a happy and healthy life. However, our society seems to promote the idea that skilled and unskilled labor are small dreams. This is an artificial diminishing of the reality of what our country needs and how those needs can be met by people who need to have a productive life. To put it another way, America, like any forward thinking country, needs a robust ecology of workers and jobs to support growth, development, and enrichment. Growth and development have to do with growing what our country is capable of as well as the continuing development of our infrastructure to support a growing population. What I mean by enrichment is the enrichment of American citizens’ lives. This can be accomplished through a variety of vectors, but I think one of the most fulfilling is the self-satisfication derived from doing good work that one is proud to own and that supports a robust life. McDonald’s recent 62,000 job additions may help the recently unemployed who need to pay the bills, but the further development of part-time, minimum wage service economy jobs will not help America in the longterm. Certainly, some folks may like and thoroughly enjoy having a lifelong career at a service-type job and there is surely nothing wrong with that. However, these cannot be the only kinds of jobs available for folks. Those jobs do not build jet engines. Those jobs do not build bridges. Those jobs do not build houses. Like I said before, a robust ecology of jobs will take American into the future, but it will require a shift in opinions of the American people as well as the foresight of entrepreneurs to support the training and hiring of people who realize that they can find their way in life without or in conjunction with some university education. Much more needs to be done to make these things possible. The federal and state governments need to commit to these realities and provide funding to help make it happen for people. Something that I believe comes up again and again in other contexts is the reevaluation of contemporary high school education. As it now stands, high school education is geared towards evaluation and testing. If we do not put back an emphasis on independent reasoning and a broad approach to instruction rather than the narrow tunnel vision of test preparation, then we will have already lost any possibility of putting into effect the things that we need to do for a continuing and strong nation.

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.