Evolving from a Blue Collar Society
In his book The Mind at Work, Mike Rose speaks of his uncle Frank; he states that his uncle Frank was a man who went out of his way to learn about things (xiv). Frank also went out of his way to teach Mike Rose about things. I believe that Mike’s Uncle Frank exhibited the intelligence of a teacher, yet he chose to become a railroad worker. I am wondering if Frank’s upbringing had nurtured him into becoming a blue collar worker. I have recently come to the conclusion that I was unmistakably nurtured into a blue collar career.
As a child I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, that dream came and went once I graduated high school. After graduation, I distinctly remember my momma saying, “Learn a trade and you will always be able to find work. I took her advice; after all, she raised five kids by waitressing and grooming dogs--my momma could always find work. I have worked in the metal fabrication field for the past twelve years. I have always been able to find work. Recently, after giving birth to my daughter, I discovered that I developed the desire to work with children on an educational level. I have decided that I would like to become a teacher. I am just simply scared that I do not have what it takes to become a teacher. I was raised in a blue collar family, I do not know any other way of life. I am wondering if it is possible for me to evolve from the blue collar society that I was raised in.
My mother gave birth to five children, ranging in ages 13 to 33 years old. All of my mother’s children have different dads except for the twins. All of my mother’s children have settled into the blue collar “dynasty”, with the exception of my 13 year-old sister. My 54 year-old mother old grooms dogs during the day and at night waits tables at a truck stop. My 30 year-old sister who has been happily married for the past twelve years has four children and runs a dog grooming shop. My twin brother and sister have freshly turned 21, and my sister has taken up dog grooming and my brother delivers fruit and is dreaming of becoming a bartender. My youngest sister is 13 and still lives at home with my mother, I am not sure what career path she is headed for, but I would bet money that she will follow the family tradition.
Blue collar jobs have always provided me shelter, put clothes on my back and food in my belly. I am not knocking the blue collar career path, I am just curious to know why there are absolutely no white collar workers in my immediate family. I would like to break out of the blue collar society mainly because I want more out of life. I want to be able to retire and not have to live off of measly social security checks. I would like to enjoy my senior years by traveling and spoiling my grand babies. I also do not want to burden my children with having to take care of me when I can no longer work.
I have almost completed my first year of college. I am the first person in my family to actually go to college, and I do not ever recall being encouraged to go to college. I am not sure why a higher education was never recommended to me. Were we just expected to become proud blue collar workers? I called my mother the other day and asked her why she thought none of her children had gone on to college after high school, she replied, “I encouraged you all to learn a trade because I knew that having a skill would keep you all employed”. My mother also stated that, “you don’t need to spend all that money and time on school when you can get on the job training”. I was trying to keep the conversation going without seeming righteous; I explained to my mother that I was in the midst of writing a paper for school about “evolving from blue collar work”. I did not want to offend my mother; I love her dearly and realize that she too, is a product of her environment, so I immediately stopped that conversation.
I told my mother a few weeks ago that I received straight A’s last quarter and that I had made it onto the “Dean’s List”. She replied with an, “oh.” I was hoping for a little more praise; I wanted her to be proud of me. My mother seemed more impressed when I had landed a bartending job in the past. Does my mother think that I am just wasting my time with school? All of our conversations sort of give me the feeling that she thinks that maybe we were just meant to be blue collar workers. I would like to ask my mother if she thinks that our family is just not smart enough to produce teachers, doctors and lawyers, but I feel that she would not give me an honest answer.
I have found that a person’s intelligence can sometimes be camouflaged, making it hard to recognize a talent or a skill that he or she may employ. I truly believe that each of my family members show sure signs of intelligence, but I am not sure that they believe that they are smart enough to work in a white collar field. In The Mind At Work, Rose writes, “I’ve been thinking about this business of intelligence for a long time: the way we decide who’s smart and who isn’t, the way the work someone does feeds into that judgment, and the effect such judgment has on our sense of who we are and what we do” (xiii). Now, the questions that weigh heavy on my mind are these: Can I evolve from the blue collar society? And, do I have the intelligence to become a teacher? I believe that employing my own personal drive may be my ticket out of the blue collar society. As far as intelligence goes, I have, in the past been smart enough to exhibit all of Howard Gardner’s, “Seven Multiple Intelligences” which are the following:
I do believe that I have the intelligence to become a teacher through proper schooling. I will break myself out of the family tradition--joining the blue collar “dynasty”. By going to college, I am laying a new foundation for my family. I plan to instill the importance of a solid college education in my children’s values. I will not let the life-lesson of working in the blue collar field go un-noticed. I will point out to my children that they have many options when it comes to choosing a career path. I want my children to be able to make educated decisions that they feel are right for themselves as individuals. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and as we age they become more apparent to us. I do not regret the path that I took out of high school; it was a fulfilling learning experience. I am now at the point in my life where I am ready to challenge myself; I am going to push myself to my own limits. In Mike Rose’s, “I Just Wanna Be Average," he states that “Students will float to the mark you set” (27). I am gradually floating to the mark I have set for myself.
Gardner, Howard. “Multiple Intelligences.” Life Studies. 7th ed. Ed. David Cavitch. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 288-298.
Rose, Mike. “I Just Wanna Be Average.” Lives on the Boundary. New York: Penguin, 1989. 18-37.
Rose, Mike. The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker. “Introduction.” New York: Viking, 2004. xiii-xxxiv.