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Mike Rowe And The ‘Propaganda’ Of Work

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Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” guy, makes an occasional appearance here on the PowerBlog. Why do we like him? Because he appreciates hard work, honest work, just as we do.

It’s surprising how many people don’t share that appreciation.

On Sunday, Rowe posted, on his Facebook page, a letter he received from a rather unhappy man.

Hey Mike,

Your constant harping on “work ethic” is growing tiresome. Just because someone’s poor doesn’t mean they’re lazy. The unemployed want to work! And many of those who can’t find work today, didn’t have the benefit of growing up with parents like yours. How can you expect someone with no role model to qualify for one of your scholarships or sign your silly “Sweat Pledge?” Rather than accusing people of not having a work-ethic, why not drop the right-wing propaganda and help them develop one?

Craig P.

Rowe is a gentleman, and responded as such. No name-calling or calling out, just an honest answer. Rowe said that he was not interested in politics or propaganda; he’s interested in helping people find work. Unfortunately, he says, there are not enough people who really want to work. Oh, they say they do (see Craig, above), but they don’t. How does Rowe know this?

From what I’ve seen of the species, and what I know of myself, most people – given the choice – would prefer NOT to work. In fact, on Dirty Jobs, I saw Help Wanted signs in every state, even at the height of the recession. Is it possible you see the existence of so many unfilled jobs as a challenge to your basic understanding of what makes people tick?

Last week at a policy conference in Mackinac, I talked to several hiring managers from a few of the largest companies in Michigan. They all told me the same thing – the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,” [as Rowe somewhat vulgarly refers to passing a drug test]) is an overwhelming lack of “soft skills.” That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.” This is not a Michigan problem – this is a national crisis. We’re churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work.

Mike Rowe isn’t a political kind of guy. He’s a work kind of guy. A dirty hands kind of guy. A get the job done kind of guy. Once upon a time, that was known as a “work ethic.” Now, apparently, it’s “propaganda.”

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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