The Value of Work

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Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity.

Pope Saint Pius X, son of a tailor




My Old Man would have loved Mike Rowe:

Off the Wall

Yesterday, I posted an article that dared to question the universal wisdom of pushing everyone toward a four-year degree. The article reached 3 million people, and not everyone was pleased…

Dawn Baker wrote, “Is it your intent to make those who choose college to feel ashamed, lazy and brainwashed? Our country’s education system is under attack, and you seem to be supplying more ammunition to those attacking it……There’s a reason many of these jobs pay well – they are truly HARD WORK – physically hard. Dangerous hard. Mentally hard. Feel free to send reps to the local unemployment office and brow beat them to send people to these jobs. Whether you mean to or not – your are sending a very bad message to those who want to destroy our higher education system.

Hi Dawn

You’re right – our countries educational system is indeed under attack. But the attack is from within, and the wounds are self-inflicted.

Yesterday, they installed a “Cry Closet” at The University of Utah, where students feeling stressed-out over finals can clutch a stuffed animal and bawl their eyes out in private. Last week, Ranga Jarrar, a professor at Fresno State, called Barbara Bush a witch and a racist the day she died, then bragged to the world that her tenured position meant that she could speak without fear of consequence. Meanwhile, Berkley just banned another speaker with views and ideas their students find “objectionable.” Or was it Yale? Hell, who can keep track anymore?

Point is, Dawn, the hypocrisy in our educational system is rank, the bias undeniable, the disrespect for our flag ubiquitous, and the entire “safe space” mentality the exact opposite of what life is like in the real world. Higher education has created its own PR nightmare. Is it any wonder parents are trying to figure out if their kids should be sent into such a lopsided environment? Is it any wonder reasonable people are beginning to question the value of a four-year degree?

Tuition has increased at two and half times the rate of inflation. Nothing else this important has ever done that. Not real estate, energy, food, even healthcare. The question is why? Is the quality of education two and half times better than it was thirty years ago? No way. Are universities turning out more graduates? Hardly. Fifty percent of those who enroll don’t even graduate. Do people have more disposable income today than they used to? Of course not.

No, universities have been able to raise their prices partly because too many parents believe that anything less than a four-year degree will doom their kid to a less productive existence, and partly because we’ve pressured millions of kids to borrow whatever it takes from a bottomless pool of unlimited money that doesn’t really exist. The result? One and a half trillion dollars of student debt, 6.3 million jobs that no one wants to do, and millions of college graduates who can’t find work in their chosen fields – but lack the skill to do the kind of jobs currently available. The kind of jobs you deem, “hard work.”

To answer your question, Dawn, no – my intent is not to make those who choose college feel “ashamed, lazy or brainwashed.” My intent is to remind people that a university is not the only place to enrich your mind or prepare yourself for the real world. Nor is it necessarily the best place. It’s merely the most expensive. Other options exist, including those offered through my scholarship fund. Please feel free to apply, should your position at Oregon University ever vanish. Or, should you one day conclude that work is not the enemy.


PS. This is a short but excellent video from a graduate of Haverford College, who sums it up better that I. Enjoy!

Go here to read the comments.  Hands down my job all though high school, washing dishes and scrubbing floors at the local country club, of which my parents were not members, in Paris, Illinois, prepared me more for adulthood than anything I learned in high school, as did my jobs while going to college and law school.  Learning to work with various people whether I liked them or not, showing up on time, working hard at tasks not intrinsically interesting, growing respect for the men and women who earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brows, these, and a hundred other benefits, I acquired from the jobs that, in hindsight, were so very much more precious to me than a paycheck.


My late Father was a non-church going Protestant who believed firmly in God.  He had an enormous respect for my mother’s Catholic Faith, had no objection to my brother and me being raised Catholic and never, in my presence, uttered a word against the Catholic Church.  When it came to the value of work he and the Church were on the same page:


Every one knows, too, that no nation has ever risen out of want and poverty to a better and nobler condition save by the enormous and combined toil of all the people, both those who manage work and those who carry out directions.


Pope Pius XI, May 15, 1931

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  1. My son worked on rental maintenance (moving and repairig HVAC systems, etc.) on the roof tops of buildings in Las Vegas during the summer to help pay his way through college. The soles of his feet, despite wearing the best work boots we could find, were often burned red at the end of a day. That broke my heart. But I also told him, later, that it also burst my heart with pride. He was a young man doing a man’s work, he was paying his dues to enter manhood. He’s now a computer programmer where he has a reputation as a guy who can solve tough problems. The steel in his backbone was forged on the hot rooftops of Las Vegas many years ago. He’ll have that solid bedrock to stand on for his whole life…

  2. I’ve said, even back when it was time for me to go to college, that the cultural standard should be for kids to work for 1 year between high school and college. Let them get out there and do as much as they can in as many different jobs they can to figure out what they want to do and even if college would be right for them.

    Hm. Most of Jesus’ apostles came from tradesmen, didn’t they? The words of Navin Johnson’s mother are true, “The Lord loves a working man.”

  3. “One and a half trillion dollars of student debt, 6.3 million jobs that no one wants to do, and millions of college graduates who can’t find work in their chosen fields – but lack the skill to do the kind of jobs currently available.”

    Prior to High School graduation I had a morning job in a bakery that I hated. I had to get up at 3:30 am to go to work at 4 am to help the bakers with cleanup (they had been baking donuts and cakes since midnight). My Dad made darn sure I got there, and if I dared to complain, then I would arrive with a very sore posterior. After High School, the only education I received was Naval ET A School, Nuclear Power School, Propulsion Prototype Training and Sub School. Then I went to the submarine where my first job (as a newly minted reactor operator) was cleaning the bilge beneath the feedwater regulating valves and steam generator water level control cabinet in Engine Room Forward. Talk about cleanup! I thought it ended when the bakery job ended! God has a strange sense of humor. When I got to sleep (still a rare occasion), it was on a foam mat between a Mark-48 torpedo and a Subroc nuclear missile in the Torpedo Room (there not enough bunks in berthing). When I dared to complain, my chief petty officer (the Reactor Controls Division Chief) told me that we were a mobile nuclear weapons platform, not a hotel, “so buckle up, buttercup.” No sympathy! The North Atlantic in November was hell when on the surface, and anytime was hell when doing angles and dangles at depth. But it was the best freaking education in the world – you either did as you were told or everyone got to breathe seawater, including you. I never went to college and regret that not one darn bit, having seen the kind of people whom I as a nuclear training instructor have had to teach over the years at several different nuke plants (PWRs and BWRs) and several different NSSS vendors. Unless they are from the US military, many (not all) young new hires often (not always) come with little to no knowledge of the fundamentals of sciences of mechanical, electrical, I&C, materials, thermodynamics, water chemistry, etc., no matter what their college degree says. And work ethic? There is none! That’s the one darn thing the submarine service pounded into my head – work ethic, the same thing Dad pounded into my posterior. Everybody works or everybody become fish food. It’s that freaking simple. My Dad couldn’t have been prouder at what the Navy turned me into (with the possible exception of my sailor tongue). These upstart millennials have absolutely no idea what real work is.

    I have been working since 18 years old – some 43 years now. The longest that I have not worked was 2 weeks – the period of time between my honorable discharge and initial employment at my first commercial Pressurized Water Reactor. I am 61 years old now and I hope to work till the day I die. Better to go on my feet (or at least sitting at my desk nowadays) doing something useful. I may not be able to show much of a successful life to God Almighty, but at least I will have worked to the end.

  4. LQC,
    “I may not be able to show much of a successful life to God Almighty, but at least I will have worked to the end.”

    Success in God’s eyes?

    Did you love?
    Your Asian wife…do you love her?
    Your neighbors?

    You know that HIS idea of success is nowhere close to man’s definition.
    My guess is that God will view your return to Him as he did when you came back to Him years ago…as the prodigal son.
    This time you will see Him place the ring on your finger and feel the warmth of the white robe surrounding you as He speaks of your successful Life on earth as one of His own children.

    God is Love brother.

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