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The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker Paperback – April 24, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This groundbreaking study finds that the intelligence, integrated skills and achievements of blue collar and service workers have been consistently undermined and marginalized by cultural stereotyping. Rose (Possible Lives) finds conventional assessment of intelligence tied to social class: to IQ tests that measure formal schooling rather than capacity, and judgments that elevate "mind work" such as teaching or surgery over so-called "body work" represented by hair stylists or plumbers. Rose demonstrates, through research and personal exploration of a variety of workplaces, that cognitive ability, including perception, judgment, memory and knowledge, is employed daily in the work of laborers like welders, carpenters and drivers. He includes an extraordinarily moving biography of his mother, who used timing, concentration, strategic efficiency and a high degree of social skills in her work as a waitress. He profiles vocational teachers such as Jim Padilla, who motivates and guides his student electricians while passing on the concentration, problem-solving skills and persistence necessary to success. Rose also provides an excellent overview of the academic-vocational divide and argues that its effacement is necessary for a more democratic society. Well written and perceptive, but never dogmatic, Rose's book puts an important and generally poorly covered piece of the U.S.'s sociological puzzle in bold relief.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Through in-depth research, Rose, a member of the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies demonstrates that cultural stereotyping has invariably underestimated blue-collar workers’ intelligence and accomplishments. Rose quotes a policy analyst: “How do you honor a student’s construction worker father while creating the conditions for his child to not be a construction worker?” Combining memoir (his mother was a waitress) with case studies, he also provides an excellent overview of the academic-vocational divide, though at times his overly scholarly descriptions of the work environment reflect this division. Generally fast paced and never dogmatic, however, Rose has certainly drawn an original portrait of America at work.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035572
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Matlock on September 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book forces you to look at things in a new light. When you hire someone to do some work around the house, cut your hair, or bring food to you in a restaurant; you really don't want someone that's too dumb. Otherwise you house, your hair, or your food isn't right. But we have been conditioned to think that these kinds of workers do not need any brainpower.

In this book, Mike Rose, a member of the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies grew up in a working class family and witnessed first hand the skills it takes to do the manual work about which he writes.

With that a basis, he begins to look at intelligence in a new, broader sense. Perhaps our traditional IQ tests are wrong. And if we think of these workers, these people as being not too bright, then we shut down opportunities for advancement and it makes you think seriously about how people will vote in the upcoming presidential election.

This is a seminal book. It establishes several points, but it is just a first step. How should we change education to be more meaningful to people who are just as smart but not oriented the same way. Are the traditional three R's simply not applicable? If not, what should we do? We don't want to condemn people who are just slow starters on the traditional path, yet we want to provide the best education possible for all.
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Format: Paperback
Mike Rose is a kind of mix between Studs Terkel and Antonio Damasio, the guy who wrote Descartes' Error. In this book he documents the intelligence it takes to do blue-collar and service industry jobs like being a waitress or a hairstylist or a plumber or a welder. While he does this he also pays tribute to his own family, all of whom worked in manufacturing or the service industry. I found the chapter on his mother, a career waitress, especially moving and beautifully written. Rose dispels the notion that blue collar or service industry labor is "mindless" as he provides an inspiring and personal account of the lives of workers -- from the shop floor to the diner to the beauty salon. His discussion of education is wonderful. Rose provides a vision for moving beyond the "skill and drill" approach to education usually doled out to the sons and daughters of the working classes. A terrific read from a writer with deep, first hand knowledge of the lives of America's workers.
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Format: Hardcover
This book forces you to look at things in a new light. When you hire someone to do some work around the house, cut your hair, or bring food to you in a restaurant; you really don't want someone that's too dumb. Otherwise you house, your hair, or your food isn't right. But we have been conditioned to think that these kinds of workers do not need any brainpower.

In this book, Mike Rose, a member of the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies grew up in a working class family and witnessed first hand the skills it takes to do the manual work about which he writes.

With that a basis, he begins to look at intelligence in a new, broader sense. Perhaps our traditional IQ tests are wrong. And if we think of these workers, these people as being not too bright, then we shut down opportunities for advancement and it makes you think seriously about how people will vote in the upcoming presidential election.

This is a seminal book. It establishes several points, but it is just a first step. How should we change education to be more meaningful to people who are just as smart but not oriented the same way. Are the traditional three R's simply not applicable? If not, what should we do? We don't want to condemn people who are just slow starters on the traditional path, yet we want to provide the best education possible for all.
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Format: Paperback
We read The Mind at Work in Comp 201 at SUNY Potsdam. Here are some informal comments from students in the class:

--He does belabor his main point
--It is an eye opener
--It changes the way you think about the working class
--Rose backs up his work by using documented research and real experiences from real people.
--Dr. Springsteen did not appreciate the citation style
--We gave it 3.5 stars as a class average
--It could be useful for high school students who have to choose between academic and vocational tracks
--Rose's writing style was kind of boring, but easy to understand. He wrote in a person-to-person style, like you were talking to him.
--Some of the writing was too technical (but maybe that's because I am a creative writer)
--wouldn't recommend to an average person...it's like an acquired taste, you really have to be interested in learning about society and the ideas instilled in us by society
--it reads like a textbook until the 7th chapter when you get to hear his argument
--with the section on vocational education, he tied in younger generations; interesting generational approach
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Format: Paperback
Mike Rose is a just a plain wonderful writer. He knows how to really evoke a scene, and bring his ideas to life thorugh the stories he tells. In this book Rose explore the idea that much of what we call blue collar and other manual labor can entail high levels of intelligence. In this he is attempting to blur what has traditionally been seen as the hand/brain divide in occupations and study. He engages in this exploration by interviewing and observing people engaged in a variety of trades, from hairdresser and waitress to plumber and welder. He also explore what this might say about our traditional school curriculum and specifically vocational curriculum. A very thoughtful and delightful book.
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