Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Blue Collar to White Collar Limbo

Betzi e-mailed me an excerpt from a book about social mobility that looks to be worth reading. This topic fascinates me -- it bundles up aspirations, abilities, beliefs about the value of education, socioeconomic factors and the American Dream itself:
"After bricklaying for 30 years, my father promised himself I’d never pile bricks and blocks into walls for a living. He and my mother figured that an education—genie-like and benevolent—would somehow rocket me into the rarefied trajectory of the upwardly mobile and load some serious loot into my pockets. My desire to work at something interesting to me rather than merely profitable was hard to fathom. Here I was breaking blue-collar rule number one: Make as much money as you can, to pay for as good a life as you can get. My father would try to teach me what my goals should be when I was 19, my collar already fading to white. I was the college boy who handed him the wrong wrench on help-around-thehouse Saturdays."
She also sent along an NPR radio interview with the author, including calls from listeners -- thanks, Betzi.


Stephen said...

Could just as easily be my story! This bricklayer's son's career in education certainly hasn't earnt me a slot in lifestyles of the rich and famous.

When I was teaching, with the associated long hours of preparation and extra-curicular involvement, my father was fond of reminding me that my hourly rate would be higher if I were working at the local supermarket.

I used to muddle up the wrenches too ;-)

Anonymous said...

My dad wasn't a bricklayer, but I get the whole "do more to get paid more" ethic. It's changed though: it's about setting up a system that earns for you. Now, of course I'm not espousing sitting on your butt and doing nothing--well, maybe I am--I'm saying the key is to yield more than the sum total of your product/service. It's going beyond the billable.

I'll add the book to my Amazon wish list.

Jeremy said...

Stephen, I can totally relate to this as well. My dad was a mechanic and shop owner when I was growing up and I wasn't particularly mechanically inclined.

In my work, we focus on helping young people decide on their work paths, and there's always the conflict between pushing everyone into university or getting kids to follow their dreams (no matter what the socioeconomic prospects) or showing them that some of the trades offer great opportunities despite their current lack of cool cache.

Jeremy said...

Good point, Jory -- there may be a bit of a generational split in the approaches to work.