Mike Rowe Responds to TedWeekends Comments on Huffington Post

Last weekend Huffington Post posted Mike Rowe’s Ted Talk in their Ted Weekends series online and hundreds of comments poured in on the site. Mike Rowe responded to some of the comments and a few appeared underneath the Ted Talk on the Huffington Post site. There were a few more comments and responses from Mike’s fans that we thought should be posted here on the Profoundly Disconnected site. Let us know what you think.

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388 Fans
Have a friend who teaches industrial technology in a middle school (7-8 graders). His equipment is something out of the 70’s and much doesn’t work; his budget is a few hundred dollars, his class is a dumping ground for the academically ineligible, his state law requires no more than 10 students per class and he has over 20, his attempts at fundraising have been met with indignation and indifference. The road to success is not paved with the existing infrastructure we have in America…

True that, John. People often talk about our widening skills gap and our crumbling infrastructure as though they are problems in and of themselves. They’re not, in my opinion. They’re symptoms of what we value as a society. From what I’ve seen, we’ve been trying very hard to scrub the dirt and the effort out of the definition of a “desirable job.” We’ve become disconnected from a lot of fundamental things that still really matter – food, work, energy, history. We’ve all but eliminated vocational education from high schools, and elevated a four year degree to such lofty heights that all other legitimate opportunities feel subordinate. The skills gap is not a mystery. We created it, just as surly as we created Honey Boo Boo.

(Regarding class size though – check out Gladwell’s latest book. A great debunking of the idea that “smaller is better.”)

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Mike, i really agree with your direction and premise, but i dont agree with the way your telling these youngsters to go to “FOR PROFIT” learning institutions!, i.e. tech schools…These technical schools are not accredited nor can these kids and young adults transfer there credits to accredited learning institutions (junior colleges) or colleges for that matter!!…The Building Trades Unions have the best learning facilities and the apprentices are trained by actual Journeyman who have been in the career for years and they pass down the trade secrets to these fine young men and women!…That’s where the point lies..TRAINING!!!!!

Hi Louie. In my experience, multiple explanation points suggests a certain commitment to one’s beliefs, so I’ll not try to dissuade you from yours. However, I think you’re painting with a very broad brush.

Many “for profit” trade schools are excellent. The ones I work with have placement rates above 80%, and they are forced to disclose their results in ways that non-profit colleges are not. Furthermore, their debt to income ratio is a fraction of what four-year degreed graduates can expect. On average, 83% of trade school graduates make as much or more than those with a four-year degree. (Bureau Labor Statistics) Personally, I like “for profit” institutions. We’re talking about jobs, after all. Money is central to the whole transaction. Frankly, it’s non-profit education that makes me nervous, especially when it’s being funded with vast sums of public money. The enemy is not “profit,” in my opinion. The enemy is debt. And of course, expectations.

The odds today of success for kids that study nothing beyond high school are absolutely horrible. In Idaho, 60% of students stop after the 12th grade. It’s worse in other parts of the country. The foundation that evolved out of that TED Talk – mikeroweWORKS – is commited to getting as many of those kids as possible into some kind of educational program by offering “work-ethic scholarships” to the kinds of schools you criticize. It’s been working. And the response has been incredible.

Look, I love the fact that companies and unions offer free training, and I really do applaud their efforts. (Caterpillar has a great one called Think Big that’s had amazing results.) But understand – those programs you refer to a few and far between. They could never come close to handling the masses of kids who could really benefit from learning a useful skill.

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SUPER USER•1,855 Fans•Compassionate accountability
Except that most “trade schools” are ‘for-profit’ and have TERRIBLE graduate employment rates and even worse Student Loan default rates.

Howdy Psychpro. Have you met Louie? Between your caps and his exclamation points, you two could move MOUNTAINS!!!!

I check the numbers often, and I can find nothing anywhere that justifies your claim. Zero. Nothing even close. As of today, just 27% of college graduates are working in their field of study. Trade schools are three times that. Are there crappy trade schools out there with dismal results and unhappy students. Sure. Do such schools comprise the majority. Of course not.

With respect, I think you’re overlooking the most relevant fact – trade schools are training people for jobs that actually exist. Universities, not so much. And yet, the average cost of a four year degree is $54,265.00. Trade schools don’t even come close to that. Plus, 83% of all trade school graduates are now making as much or more than those with four-year degrees. Are you so opposed to a profitable venture that you’d condemn the whole enterprise?

You can make a case against bad or corrupt schools all day long and I’ll be right there with you. But a for-profit school with crappy results eventually goes out of business. Non-profit universities almost never. They stick around forever, and we continue to sing their praises at the expense of all other options. One things for sure Psychpro – a trained welder has a much better shot of paying off his student loan today than a Georgetown grad with a law degree. And a trillion dollars of student debt is no joke. If my tax money is in the mix, I’d rather lend a small amount to an ambitious kid who wants to learn a useful skill, than a large amount to an Art History major with a passing interest in Midevil studies.

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7 Fans
Until the Federal and State governments (along with our society) recognize that not every student is college material and start putting as much emphasis & value on attending trade & tech schools as they do on college, we will continue to show a decline in the “trade” fields. As long as we insist on using high stakes testing to evaluate all schools & teachers, schools will (and must) teach to the test. Federal & state mandates have tied the hands of schools & teachers to move students through the system in a way that best serves the needs of the students and our communities.

DK – No doubt about it. Being educated is not the same as being trained. In the same way that being “in compliance” is not the same as being safe. Our education systems tries very hard to eliminate uncertainty through all manner of tests and controls, and employers attach great meaning and significance to lots of things that, in the end, don’t really matter. And so we lend money we don’t have to kids that can’t pay it back, educating them perfectly for jobs that no longer exist. We have reaped precisely what we have sown.

SUPER USER•438 Fans•I make Typos to tick off correctors
Most, not all, of todays generation just will not learn a trade where actual hard, dirty work is required. It is no wonder more of these much needed jobs are going to Immigrants who are not afraid of honest hard labor. To many today Want a new car, a house with good looking landscape handed to them but have no clue how to change a flat, fix a drip in a sink or how to mow a lawn. It is a sad situation all around.

Canefighter – Given the choice, most of us would prefer someone else to do the hard work. Most of us would prefer to be waited on. Most of us would prefer to be paid more for doing less. I know this is true of me, and I suspect it’s true of homo sapiens in general. Until recently though, character was measured in part by our ability to overcome such flaws. Now, I’m afraid you’re right. Something has changed. Not in our DNA, but in our standards. We no longer see our shortcomings – or the shortcomings of others – as deficits to be overcome. We see them as qualities to be accepted. We don’t process shame the way we used to.

As I said earlier, bitching about work ethic and personal responsibility now feels political. And grousing about expectations will almost certainly move the conversation into some sort of polemic. It’s a shame. Because I don’t think the notion off a strong work ethic can be “owned” by conservatives or liberals – (though both have claimed it for themselves.) It’s too important to who we are, and we’ve got to get it back.

4 thoughts on “Mike Rowe Responds to TedWeekends Comments on Huffington Post

  1. “We no longer see our shortcomings – or the shortcomings of others – as deficits to be overcome. We see them as qualities to be accepted. We don’t process shame the way we used to.”
    Excellent statement. Rather than strive to improve, many today prefer to embrace mediocrity. Gaining a skill / pursuing an education is an opportunity to progress. We should work to over come our shortcomings, not embrace them.

  2. Mike, I am a retired toolmaker with over 40 years experience. I cannot find a job because of a physical disability and would like to teach, but nobody is teaching basic metalworking skills anymore, at least at a high school level. Where are we going to get new talent? It is my passion to pass on my knowledge to the new generation. How are we ever going to get back to being the world’s leader in innovation without talented people?

    I believe you share my passion for rebuilding our nation’s manufacturing prowess and firmly believe it starts with motivating people to do the jobs necessary to reach that goal. Dirty jobs be damned, I’m happy with grease and oil under my fingernails. At least I was making a comfortable living and providing for my family. I got a lot of satisfaction taking a chunk of metal and making something useful out of it.

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