Have you ever seen somebody do a job and thought “Pff, I could do that job?” As a society, we tend to believe certain jobs require intelligence and others don’t require any. For example, a construction worker probably doesn’t require a lot of intelligence to do their job, whereas the perception is a CEO would need to be very intelligent. Even though I find myself thinking these exact thoughts, Mike Rose’s article “Blue-Collar Brilliance” and some recent experiences have swayed me to think differently. I believe there are a lot of jobs that require a lot of intelligence and even the “no brainer” type of jobs require skills not always taught in school. There are many different types of jobs and they are usually put into classes like blue-collar, pink-collar, and white-collar jobs. As you move up the classes in jobs, there is a common perception that the intelligence level needs to increase as well. However, there are other ways to gauge intelligence and it doesn’t always translate to being book smart.
We will start with the general misconception that people that do well in school and further their education are more intelligent or “book smart.” As Rose puts it, “intelligence is closely associated with formal education- the type of schooling a person has, how much and how long” (247). Now, there really isn’t anything to argue with when you assume that. For the most part, people that go to school and graduate college are very smart or they wouldn’t have been able to get through school. For instance, you wouldn’t say that a lawyer or a doctor isn’t intelligent; they have years upon years of schooling and they have managed to absorb it all in because they are intelligent. Although I don’t discredit any of these common thoughts or think that these “book smart” people aren’t intelligent, I now feel that many jobs require a lot more intelligence than we give them credit for.
I think it is safe to say times have changed a lot over the past forty to fifty years, but the baby boomers are still very much a part of our working class today. When they were younger, dropping out of high school was much more common than it is today. Although times have changed from then to now, it brings me to my next point: not all intelligent people are “book smart.” For example, if you were to have a conversation with my uncle Bobby, you might walk away thinking a couple of things: like for starters he isn’t the brightest tool in the shed, his communication skills are subpar, and even that he would pass as a full-fledged “hillbilly.” Although it is true that he never completed high school, and he might not give you the impression of an intelligent man, he actually owns and operates his own multi-million dollar company. How? You might ask. Well, he worked for a company for years and when the economy was going through a rough patch, they had to let him go. He then took everything he had learned from working for the company for over fifteen years and used all of the contacts he had made to start his own company. He started in his garage, but before long and using the knowledge he had gained, he quickly grew. Even though he might not sound or act like the most intelligent man, he has definitely proven to me that intelligence can have many forms.
Rose hits our general misconception right on the head when he says, “our cultural iconography promotes the muscled arm, sleeve rolled tight against biceps, but no brightness behind the eye, no image that links hand and brain” (247). I know we have all had the thoughts about seeing someone of peak physical condition and thought how “dumb” they must be. Somewhere in the midst of gaining muscles, we assume that they have had to lose their brain to compensate. Although this is just a direct example of what Rose said, I feel that this applies to many different people as well: It applies to the waitress that takes your food at the restaurant, the construction worker that has blocked two lanes to repave the street down from your house, or it could be the person taking your payment at a cell phone store. To put it bluntly, if you don’t have a job that directly relates to having a college degree, people are going to just assume that you aren’t an intelligent person. Even I am guilty of thinking this way and admittedly about my own father.
My dad, like my uncle, also dropped out of high school and has been in construction almost his entire life. He spent a majority of my childhood building patio decks and his work was something to be admired; actually his work was nothing short of a beautiful masterpiece. He could make round decks with bent wood, install lights, make different levels, and even put in deck swings depending on the customer. I was always amazed as a kid when I would see the photos of his finished work. Although I admired his work, I dreaded going to work with him. I always felt that there was nothing for me to learn and I was also usually in charge of picking up trash. The idea that only certain jobs required “intelligence” was already with me as a kid, and I never took my dad for an intelligent man. It wasn’t until just last week I truly appreciated what my father was able to accomplish and how much intelligence it really took.
I just bought a new thirty gallon fish tank and after adding water, gravel, and decorations the tank will weigh more than three hundred pounds. I quickly realized that I will need to build a stand to support this fish tank, as I don’t have any other space for it. Admittedly, I thought it would be easy; I drew up some plans and had an idea of what I needed to do. Five trips to Lowe’s later, I had what I needed and I got started. Having watched my dad build things my entire life, I thought “How hard could it be?” I cut into the wood and although I had a small idea what I was doing, I had no idea what I was actually doing. Consequently, I cut everything as needed and exactly none of the boards I cut were the correct size. I have boards that are cut at ten degree angles, which I don’t even know how that could happen, boards shorter than other boards, and nothing is the way it is supposed to be. Even though I measured, mapped it all out, and knew exactly what I needed to do, my lack of knowledge of the tools, how to use them, and what I was actually doing led to the start of a disastrous project that I am trying to save. Admittedly, I didn’t have the correct intelligence to do the job I needed to do the first time.
Although my uncle’s and father’s jobs don’t require much acquired knowledge from school, I now feel like they both have gained two things that make them truly intelligent, the first being that they have mastered their jobs throughout the years. This is invaluable to their particular jobs and in Tyler Durdan’s article he tells us, “skilled and reliable mechanics, welders, engineers, electricians, plumbers, computer technicians, and nurses, jobs are plentiful; one can often find a job in 48 hours” (Durdan). I know they aren’t considered a mechanic or a plumber, but that type of blue-collar work is all the same when it comes to finding another job, especially if you are good at it. Now compared to someone that is “book smart” and finished their degree, they will have a degree for their one subject matter. Let’s say it was a psychiatrist, a fantastic job that requires a lot of intelligence and is not a bad road to go down; yet that prestigious job leaves that person with only that one ability. If the job market were to suddenly be in a slump or their jobs weren’t in as high of demand as they are, well, they would be out of work with nothing to fall back on. Although the blue-collar jobs are not always the most secure jobs either, there will always be things to build or fix.
The second way that blue-collar jobs provide growth in intelligence is that most blue-collar workers, including my father and uncle, have acquired more than just one skill, and this, on its own, makes them intelligent. It can open up more doors for you when others may close and it will leave you ahead in the game of life. If you take the time to learn skills you can accomplish many jobs if need be, versus only having the ability to complete one kind of job. For example, in an article about minority workers it is that “a woman in a BMW wants a mirror installed, a building contractor in a truck needs help with dry-walling,” and many blue-collar workers can fulfill both these jobs (In the Shadows). They wait patiently day in and day out, looking for work near home-improvement stores. They have acquired many skills and they are able to use their knowledge and experience to provide themselves with whatever work may come their way. Clearly these workers and many others like them, have the intelligence to do many things, which is as valuable as having a degree. How many of us can honestly say that no matter what the job is, we would have the skills to complete it properly? I know from my experience that I can’t.
My final point is that no matter where life has taken you, if you enjoy what you do, you can make the most out of your job. What I mean by that is, the happier you are with your work the likelier you are to go out and try something new, whether that be a new hobby or you finally go out to lunch with that weird guy at work. From these experiences you can gain more intelligence. It might be in the form of learning a new skill, how to do something better, what the reasons are for your work, or it could be just how to have fun doing what you love to do. One statistic proves my point: “30 percent of Americans are chronically overworked, while 54 percent have felt overwhelmed by how much work was on their plate” (Shutan). In other words, get out of the office, explore new opportunities and have fun with your work; it doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a construction worker. If you are stuck in a routine and only do your job, you are going to feel overworked and you will feel like all you do is work. I do believe that is the definition of insanity and not intelligence.
In closing, I believe that intelligence isn’t measured by how much schooling you have; it is measured by how much you learn. It can cover any job, experience, or situation. Although we will always consider some people book smart, I hope you can see that there are so many other was to be intelligent. It won’t matter what job it is; if you put your mind to it and learn, any job can provide you with more intelligence than what meets the eye. So before you scoff at the next waitress that didn’t bring out your ranch dressing, remember this: she probably under estimated the amount of intelligence that went into that job, just as you have.
Durden, Tyler. “Phil’s Stock World: How To Alleviate The Alleged ‘Worker Shortage’ – Stop Subsidizing Non-Work.” Phil’s Stock World [Phil’s Stock World – BLOG]. Apr 6, 2015. ProQuest Database.
“In the shadows; Casual workers.” The Economist. Mar 14, 2015. ProQuest Database.
Rose, Mike. “Blue-Collar Brilliance” They Say/I Say with Readings. 2nd ed. Eds. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. NewYork: Norton, 2012. 243-255. Print.
Shutan, Bruce. “Striking balance between work and life no easy task” The Quill. March 2006. 1. Pro Quest Database.