inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #51 of 96: Up From Management (archipelago) Wed 8 Dec 04 17:31
Wendell Berry had some serious and well-deserved disrespect (can't
cite where ) for the term "farmer/intellectual", as someone once
referred to him.  To believe that the word"intellectual"  automatically
lent honor to the word "farmer"  betrayed the most abysmal arrogance
and stupidity.
 < pamela>  your grand father sounds like mine. My Italian grandfather
enjoyed sitting outside on hot days in a grape arbor which he and his
sons built. He processed his huge crop of tomatoes in a power strainer
built  by my father out of the wreckage of a vacuum cleaner. No big
deal-part of being  paterfamilias or respectable son in law was the 
(assumed ) ability to practice a large set of vernacular and industrial
arts.Oh, yeah-a small vernacular jewel: "any animal has enough piss
and enough brains to tan his own hide" Eskimos still have urine barrels
for tanning stuck at vatious places around some villages. 
 There is a bilingual newspaper published in Santa Rosa called La Voz.
This paper carries many  stories of regional interest, such as the
annual pruning contests which are held in either Sonoma or Mendocino 
Counties at some winery or other.  Pruning is both brutal and
sophisticated work, and crucial to the success of the coming grape
crop.To win the contest is an indication of great strength and ability,
and La Voz reports it as such.  To many people the art of farm work is
so remote that farm workers are merely another underclass, not
practitioners of a trade which honors its own aristocracy.
Pruning  will probably start early  next month.

<aturner> your school reminds me somewhat of Deep Springs
College(subject of a WER article many years ago), The college is a
working ranch and the students are responsible for running it.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #52 of 96: Up From Management (archipelago) Wed 8 Dec 04 17:40
  Link should be <>  Sorry. 
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #53 of 96: from BETTY ANN (tnf) Wed 8 Dec 04 20:49

Betty Ann writes:

It's been said that our high school courses are being affected by the way our
society views these different types of ways of obtaining an education.I
certainly wouldn't dispute that and would like to add that not only does
society's point of view affect educational cirriculums,but a person's
earnings after his or her schooldays are over with as well.In general,it is
said that college/university grads are the best paid,followed by high school
grads,with the least amount of money being earned by those who didn't finish
all four years of high school.To me,it seems safe to assume that in part,at
least,this is happening because so many people in our society see a
college/university education as being superior to that gained by people who
choose to follow other paths in life.Therefore,people in the former group are
rewarded more in a financial way than those in the latter group,even though
there could be in dividuals who didn't attend a college/university who are
just as well educated,in their own way,as those who did.

Betty Ann
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #54 of 96: Mike Rose (mike-rose) Thu 9 Dec 04 12:37
To all: What is so interesting to me about the last series of posts is
the way they have taken off from specific discussions about waitresses
or plumbers--some of the work I deal with--and present a lovely mix of
other work that reveals skill, thoughtfulness, intelligence.  The
examples--farming, tanning, all kinds of repair--are rich with the
quality that originally caught my fancy: the smarts, the ingenuity in
the everyday, right under our noses.  We couldn't go very long without

To Betty Ann: This issue that you raise about schooling is an
important one.  In a later chapter of The Mind at Work called "The
Paradox of Vocational Education", I try to tease out some of the
elements of this complicated relation between schooling and work, at
least as it pertains to Voc Ed.  

Suffice it so say here that part of the problem is the model of mind
that was absorbed into the development of vocational education in the
first decades of the Twentieth Century.  It posited that some kids
(typically poor, immigrant, and/or ethnic and racial minorities) were
"hand-minded" and that others were "abstract-minded."  And, you guessed
it, the "hand-minded" kids were tracked into Voc Ed and the others
into a college preparatory academic curriculum.  

There have been a lot of attempts to reform Voc Ed over the last 10-15
years, but even the successful attempts, I think, keep bumping up
against those old biases.  
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #55 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Thu 9 Dec 04 14:55

You mention that it isn't just educators who are misled, that often industry
groups press for certain kinds of quite impoverished education.  Would you
say more about that?
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #56 of 96: Up From Management (archipelago) Thu 9 Dec 04 17:42
My wife is a landscaper, and once worked  in the gardens of a major
winery. It is no longer enough to make good wine-too many people can do
that-a winery must create whole environments where people can sample
wine accompanied by gourmet food grown on the premises, etc., and if
they can tour the gardens so much the better. [be careful driving in
Northern California on weekends: an alarming number of beamers ,mercs, 
volvos, etc. are being driven by people who've  been  offered a
*lot*of free wine]wife was both docent and working exhibit in this 
marvelous viticultural theme park. She answered questions about the
garden and the work she was doing, suggested various fruits or herbs
currently ripe which would enhance the taste of various wines and
foods, etc. The visitors were particularly taken with the cycles of the
garden, with the living network of relationships. My wife enjoyed this
work and she was good at it, but she bagan to notice certain
disturbing patterns.
" look at their clothing and their cars, and you can see that
they know how to do something; but you talk to them and it's obvious
that they don't know how to live..." She said that the majority were
there because they felt some kind of hunger, and they sincerely wanted
to learn how to enhance their lives.
  Near the winery there is a bakery with a monster stone oven,
prominently displayed.which is used to bake breads  only BWM-type
owners can afford. Other shops nearby offer finely crafted local
specialties at high prices. It seems as if whatever these rusticators
are doing is not providing them with any  satisfaction beside money.
They are so hungry for relationships that  they will pay to watch other
people enact their relationships with the world....So what's going on?
Despite what seems to be almost cosmic amounts of wealth in certain
areas spirit is still as divorced from flesh as  ever. The patterns of
philanthropy are  broken in many ways. Aldona Jonaitis described how
the Museum of Natural  History was  endowed: letters were circulated
among the hyper-rich of New York pointing out that they were being 
hopelessly outclassed by the hicks in Chicago who had just completed
the Field Museum Of Natural History. That's how Franz Boas got his
dream job.   Museums , symphony orchestras, great public spaces such as
Central and Golden Gate Parks were supported by those who controlled
the flow of money and the means of production and some of the chief
beneficiaries the working class.
In San Jose, however, the cyber-libertarian millionaires were quite
content to let their symphony founder.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #57 of 96: Mike Rose (mike-rose) Fri 10 Dec 04 11:26
Archipelago:  Your post reminds us of what a need we seem to have to,
at least occasionally, have some connection with life's basic
processes.  As one small example, I think of the folks I encountered
who would spend long periods of time in a garden or a garage just
tinkering.  I think of one fellow in particular who just enjoyed being
with his tools, even when he wasn't making or repairing something.  I
certainly do not want to romanticize physical work, for the way it
usually has to get done in order to make a living can be pretty harsh. 
I certainly saw it in my own family.  But some of it some of the time,
anyway, certainly brings you in close to a direct encounter with hand,
tool, material, the pulses and the structures of life.  

Pamela: I would not want to claim to be an expert in job training and
workplace education, but I have spent some time over the years either
working with people who have participated in such settings or have
observed the settings first hand.  While there certainly are some
programs that are decent, too many focus on the most narrow of skills,
trying to impart just enough technique or literacy or numeracy to get a
single job done.  

Furthermore, the means of instruction is too often the most basic,
rote, and uninspired pedagogy.  No wonder that students and workers
often tune out and just go through the motions.  

If you think about it, nobody would create such training if they
believed that students/workers were capable people.  This is the kind
of training that you create if you think that you are working with
folks who are terribly inadequate.  The irony, of course, is that you
end up creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.  People will tune out, and
will act "stupid" if that's the environment that you create for them. 
This is something I discuss and illustrate a lot more fully in an
earlier book called Lives on the Boundary, and it comes up, as well, in
the chapter on vocational education in The Mind at Work.

Now here is a really interesting and troubling thing.  With the coming
of the so-called "new economy", there has been a significant attempt
in some industries to structure work so that front-line workers would
in fact have more responsibility, use a broader range of skill and
knowledge, make decisions, etc.  This is a model of work and the worker
much different from the model I described above.  Here a richer kind
of training would make sense, and, to be sure, some businesses have
been able to put it in place.

However, old belief systems and organizational cultures die hard.  In
the final chapter of the book I describe a study where a particular
industry's sincere attempt to restructure front line work was hampered
by old attitudes about what the workforce was intellectually capable of
doing.  So you have the structures of the "new economy" sabotaged by
old beliefs.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #58 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Fri 10 Dec 04 12:36

Yes, I found that one of the most interesting parts of the book, Mike.  It's
analagous to something I ran into when I sat on a panel about the future of

Me: Why isn't the engineering curriculum richer in things like aesthetics?

Engineer God: The curriculum is already too full; we couldn't load one more
        thing onto it.

Me: But you just got through saying that it's all obsolete in five years.

Engineer God: True, but these guys have gotta have a job when they get out.

And so forth.

And speaking of aesthetics--this comes up in many chapters in the book.  I'd
like you to describe it in its obvious ways, say, hairdressing; and in its
much less obvious ways.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #59 of 96: Up From Management (archipelago) Fri 10 Dec 04 12:54
I certainly wouldn't romanticize my family's experience- I was pretty
well grown before I learned that a short, pointed D-handled shovel was
not properly called a "Guinea banjo"...
Ivan Illich, John Holt and John Taylor Gatto all describe in various
ways how the educational system serves to control rather than to
educate. If you have an economy which has a need for a large underclass
then you will have to provide appropriate training to ensure an
adequate supply;  the U.S. seems to be making a great success of this.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #60 of 96: Mike Rose (mike-rose) Sat 11 Dec 04 10:19
Pamela: THis issue of aesthetics turned out to be an interesting one
for me, and one of the surprises that came out of doing the book.

Of course, I knew going in that someone like a hairstylist would be
concerned about the appealing look of her work.  But even there, what
impressed me was the intricate relation among so many factors that
contributed to the aesthetic outcome.  

She had to be manually dextrous, she had to know a lot of styles, she
had to know products and how they would or wouldn't work with
particular kinds of hair, she had to know her tools, etc.  

But she also, if she was good, had the ability to modify particular
techniques and styles in order to achieve a pleasing look given
someone's coloring, facial shape, etc.  

Finally, she had to be able to figure out--often through questions,
gestures, pictures in magazines--exactly what it was that a client
wanted.  I remember one woman coming in and saying, "Give me something
light and summery." What impressed me was the stylist's ability to
convert that abstract request into an actual style.  

So with the hairstylist all these factors are orchestrated to produce
the pleasing style.  The aesthetic here is an interactive and
negotiated one.  

Now let's turn to areas where the presence of aesthetics might be a
little bit less expected.  What struck me over the six years that it
took to write The Mind at Work was how often I ran into some expression
of the aesthetic impulse.  I think that, unfortunately, a lot of us
tend to identify "aesthetic" as a property of the arts, maybe high-brow
culture, and the like.  This is unfortunate, I think, because it can
keep us from seeing the expression of the aesthetic impulse all around

Whether it was plumbers or welders or, for that fact, surgeons, it
seemed important, at least to some practitioners, to make something or
to fix something in a way that was aesthetically pleasing.  

As far as I could tell, there were two reasons for this.

One was that, as a carpenter in Tracy Kidder's House puts it, "what
looks well works well."  Often the pleasing appearance has a functional
purpose.  So the electrical conduit that is flush against the house is
both visually satisfying and structurally sound.  The neatly braided
wires within a wall make it easier for another electrician to trace a
particular wire--but, as one pointed out to me, it also just looks

What was interesting to me, however, was the number of times that a
person would take extra pains or even re-do something just to make it
look nice--even when there was no structural or functional reason to do
so: The extra wiping of a finger over a caulk line, the repair of a
tiny gap underneath a bookcase, the refashioning of a bundle of wires
because it "looked ugly." 

We are aesthetic creatures.  
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #61 of 96: Up from Manegement (archipelago) Sat 11 Dec 04 15:06
The programmers I know speak of "cleanliness"and "elegance", two
standards by which they judge their work...Shipwrights and fine
finishers in other trades speak of jobs ending up "normal". "Normal" is
a state in which all relationships are harmonious. If it isn't
"normal" it isn't right.
On  fish processing lines, fish which are not well or completely
processed are known as "dirty" fish. In some fisheries,a fisherman may
express contempt for another's poorly done work by redoing the job.
Words are sledom needed.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #62 of 96: David Crosby (croz) Sun 12 Dec 04 09:44
you have taken a serious look at this .....her is a look at the heart
of a fictional waitress....I hope it's not too far afield .........

                        Through Here Quite Often

I come through here quite often 
and I think about you 
I come through here quite often
and I wonder what you do 

a wrong turn at the corner
I could say I got lost 
a confusion of memories 
when two streets crossed 

the picture that haunts me
is eyes through the steam 
rising off of the coffee
coming off of the cream 

and I don’t even know you 
and I don’t mean to stare 
but I know what you’re thinking 
I can see that you dare 

to care about strangers 
and see into their lives 
as you hand them a spoon 
as you polish the knives

you reach out and touch one
every once in a while 
with offhanded wisdom
or a lopsided smile 

now they say don’t talk to strangers
I say why the hell not 
if you don’t talk to people 
what have you got 

a world without wisdom 
a life without laughs
a season of loneliness
friendships in halfs

do you care about strangers 
do you look at their lives 
their sons and their daughters 
their husbands and wives

so I come here for coffee
and I watch your face 
to see secret kindness
and watch quiet grace 
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #63 of 96: Mike Rose (mike-rose) Sun 12 Dec 04 10:00
My comments yesterday about aesthetic response--and Archipelago's post
#61--have got me to thinking about a core theme of THe Mind at Work,
one that I would like to say a little bit more about now.  

THe point that I was making about aesthetic response was how
distributed it is among the population, among us.  In a similar way,
other qualities of mind are widely distributed as well.  

One thing that I did to illustrate this point was to look at some
high-status work that also relies on a blend of hand and brain: for
example, physical therapy and general surgery.  I thought that perhaps
by comparing these different kinds of work I could provide yet another
line of sight on this issue. 

One thing that I was able to illustrate is the distribution of a wide
range of mental processes like problem-solving, decision-making, making
inferences from knowledge, a refinement of perception and attention,
etc.  Here is a specific example from plumbing and surgery.  Both the
plumber and the surgeon develop the ability to "see with their hands." 
THe plumber working in an old house is able to feel around inside a
wall and is able to visualize what's going on with the pipes inside and
make judgements about what needs to be done.  In a similar way, the
surgeon is able to feel underneath organs and other structures for
texture, shape, pulse, etc. and visualize and make judgments about what
it all means.  Obviously, I'm not trying to say that if I need a
surgeon, I could just as well use my plumber (or vice versa), but
rather I want to remind us that they are both thinking in some
fundamentally similar ways, at least in moments like the above.  

A further quality that I found to be widely distributed is an
attention to craft (which can be related to aesthetics).  Here is a
nice little comparative example.  A young man building a book case
noticed a tiny gap in a seam at the very bottom of the case located
such that nobody could ever see it, and it had no structural
implications.  Still, he fixed it because as he put it, "I know it will
be there, and I want this to be right."  I saw this same kind of
concern about craft spread across all the occupations I looked at, from
welder to surgeon.  

I want to be clear about all this.  I realize that many practitioners
do a poor job, for all sorts of reasons, from training to motivation. 
We have all been on the receiving end of bad work.  But I don't want us
to lose sight of a larger point: that a broad sweep of mental
processes and a desire to do a job well are two of a number of
qualities that are distributed across the population.  

There is among us a common core of competence that we do not often
celebrate.  We have heard much over the last few months about all the
cultural divides in the country.  I really do think that one of them
has to do with this business of the way we segment ourselves through
beliefs about intelligence and ability.  I would like to see us rethink
these beliefs, and I hope that considering intelligence the way that
we are here at THe Well could provide one small contribution to this
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #64 of 96: Alan Turner (arturner) Sun 12 Dec 04 11:13
I think I must have the ultimate example of something like that:  I have
some relatives who ran a machine shop, and everything they did was a
one-off: they made specialized manufacturing equipment.  But they did do a
little limited production of repeated items.  That was mainly to have
something to do for one son who was mentally retarded.  "make nice things"
is how he described his work.  I guess it stretched his mind as well, but I
think he got most of the satisfaction just from assembling the widgets, and
making them exactly right.

My point being that even Roger, who never even managed to utter a complete
sentence, found purpose in his life by assembling widgets and being able
look at his finished ones.  He had no problem-solving and virtually no
decision-making skills.  But he had that aesthetic pride in his work.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #65 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Sun 12 Dec 04 14:38

There is among us a common core of competence that we do not often
 celebrate.  We have heard much over the last few months about all the
 cultural divides in the country.  I really do think that one of them
 has to do with this business of the way we segment ourselves through
 beliefs about intelligence and ability.  I would like to see us rethink
 these beliefs, and I hope that considering intelligence the way that
 we are here at THe Well could provide one small contribution to this

That paragraph seems to me to sum up the great value of Mike's book.

I've had wonderful conversations with waitresses since I read this book--
they swell, they agree: yes, that's how it is (and one, a trumpeter (!) and
voice student, told me the differences and the similarities in her two
lives).  I'll have a conversation with my hairdresser in two days.

And croz, thanks for that poem (song lyrics?).  It really sings.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #66 of 96: Andrew Alden (alden) Sun 12 Dec 04 16:31
Scientists are famous for adhering to "beautiful theories," too. The
physicist Paul Dirac made a big deal of the mathematics being elegant. One
hurdle in the acceptance and furthering of modern fundamental physics is
that it's so weird, its beauty isn't widely appreciated.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #67 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Sun 12 Dec 04 18:14

Mike does talk about surgeons in his book, who stick their fingers into the
body to find out if "it feels right".  That's a kind of aesthetic.

Joe Meraglio, Mike's uncle, worked his way up from car sander (the nastiest,
dirtiest job) to becoming a general foreman at the Lordstown GM plant.  He
too talked about things "looking right."  The aesthetis impulse is deep,
though it may not be universal.

A house was built nearby my house in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The owner was
exacting, making the workers pull apart whatever didn't  "look right."  But
they didn't resent that--they loved it that he cared: they began to care
too in ways they wouldn't otherwise.  The house is one of the handsomest in
Santa Fe.

And like Andrew, I've often heard scientists talk about what's beautiful,
and suspect that truth was inside beauty.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #68 of 96: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 13 Dec 04 00:01
re 56 from Archipelago: "It seems as if whatever these rusticators
are doing is not providing them with any  satisfaction beside money.
They are so hungry for relationships that  they will pay to watch
other people enact their relationships with the world."  

Where I see people like that is "liberals" who pack community theater
performances of Neil Simon plays.  They seem to have some aching
hollowness inside them that needs to be filled with reassurance that
the world is still schmaltzy.  I think this ties in to their lackluster
performance on the job. Since they feel exploited, they do not really
give themselves to their work.  They hold back.  They think they are
holding back from their "bosses" but they do not understand that their
employers are their _clients_.

Traverse City is a big tourist trap, so we have both kinds of liberals
here: the "BMW liberals" from Detroit who come here to visit the
wineries and "antique" stores and such; and the locals in their 15 year
old economy cars.  Of course, we have both kinds of "conservatives"
the ones in Lincolns from Detroit and the locals in pickup trucks.  So,
I guess that politically, it balances out.

As far as haircuts go, I used to be a sucker for those Mall Stylists
who do both women's and men's hair.  (Different states require
different licenses for this.)  I have gotten a good cut, but mostly
not.  These girls have no interest in their work, as far as I can tell.
 The last time, I tipped her $10 in advance and told her to take her
time and we would talk about the cut and she rushed me out of the
chair.  When I got in the car, and saw how bad it was, I asked for my
money back.  (She kept the tip.)  For a good haircut, I go to a man's
barbershop with a candycane pole in front.  Women cut there too -- and
often, if not usually, do a better job than the men -- but they seem to
cut up to a man's standard: they seem to know men and like being
around them and understand them.

It just seems to me that in every line of work, every marketplace,
every service or product, there are some people who care about what
they do and some who do not.  

A few posts here involve "surgeons." In this, I see a certain
underlying, implicit elitism.  I am sure that we have all met doctors
who are idiots.  Sure, they memorized a lot of material and suffered a
lot of hardships and they are really smart, but they seem to lack
something essential in doctoring.  Many of them get sued for
malpractice.  Many others avoid serious mistakes with lackluster
output: nothing ventured, nothing lost.  The same holds true of any

I guess that in the worst light, it just seems to me that a book that
tells people that you need to do a good job at work is something to be
found in a high school guidance office.  The fact that it was not is
what makes the book publishable today.  Who buys such a book?  As far
as I can tell, it must be those people in BMWs who visit wineries and
go to plays.  Meanwhile ...

Susan: "Hey, Stella! Look here. Some college perfesser in California
sez we need brains to do our jobs!"
Stella: "Hah! No kiddin! Say ja hear about Marcia's baby?..."
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #69 of 96: Robert Chevalier (archipelago) Mon 13 Dec 04 01:59
>to care about strangers 
>and see into their lives 
>as you hand them a spoon 
>as you polish the knives
I think (croz) is pretty close here...where does this "aesthetic" come
from? It might be something as simple as getting up before you are
through sleeping, the old man/old lady is still hurt and angry, the
kid's depressed and detached and if he doesn't stop getting wrecked at
school he's gonna get expelled, and your body is slow enough and moves
with enough pain that you are beginning to feel that you might not have
 the 5000 years it's going to take for all the brushfires in your live
to burn themselves out...and to add insult to injury, not only does
the road lead nowhere but from dust to dust but you've got to get your
dead ass up, grab your shovel and go  pave the damned road yourself,
and sometimes the only thing which keeps you from going postal on one
hand and going out like an old light bulb on the other is  art, and
art, as Norman McLean has pointed out, can be hard to come by.And the
poor bastard who has noone to make him coffee, and who is taking his
personal paving job just a little personal pauses in his agony just
long enough to catch out of the corner of his eye the turn of the wrist
as the spoon is placed in precisely the proper position, and  is
somehow comforted. The hand, knowing itself to have succeeded in its
mission with the spoon proceeds to its next task with renewed courage.
The day has started, and the world is once again turning toward the
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #70 of 96: lurkyyoungster (tinymonster) Mon 13 Dec 04 06:14
Wow, that's good, Robert; very poetic!

And <62> -- Very relevant, and I like it!  Is that a new one, <croz>?
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #71 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Mon 13 Dec 04 11:04

In case anyone is under any misimpressions, Mike Rose's book is as distant
as it's possible to be from condescension toward his subjects, whether
they're hairdressers or surgeons.  It was respect for and curiosity about
the members of his family in so-called "low skill" jobs that got him started
on the study.  He also wondered about the non-book-learning that elite
professionals who are successful need.  That non-book-learning surgeons
acquire happens to share some characteristics with other professions,
callings, occupations.
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #72 of 96: Up From Management (archipelago) Mon 13 Dec 04 12:49
For a truly poetic look at the difficulties of paving the road from
dust to dust read Robert Leo Heilman _Overstory: Zero  Real Life In
Timber Country_ Heilman is a wonderful essayist-his work reminds me of
Wendell Berry-and he has a lot of experience with life in logged-off
America, with the pressing need for comprehensive omnicompetence  in
the art of Doing Without.
Can't remember where,but Gary Snyder described his  failure to combine
the practice of writing with the job of trail building. He was getting
nowhere with his writing, and losing much-needed sleep  over it, and
the finally said to hell with it-he'd simply work....he went on to say
that his writing began to get a lot better after that...
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #73 of 96: Alan Turner (arturner) Mon 13 Dec 04 17:15
I'm wondering:  several times you mention trainees or apprentices who have
that desire to get it just right (even things that will never be seen).
What's your take on that?  Do you think it's something that they had in
themselves all along, or something that their instructors instilled in some

If the latter, what do you think they did to foster that attitude?
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #74 of 96: Mike Rose (mike-rose) Mon 13 Dec 04 20:27
Sorry for the late response.  What a good set of posts this is.  

Croz: Thank you for the poem.  Is it a song lyric?  I hope so.  I am
pleased that our conversation made you think of sending it.  

Alan Turner: (#64) I also know of several cases like this one. 
They're powerful, aren't they?  And they sure get us to thinking about
the big question.  

Post # 73: That's a good question, and it touches on an earlier
exchange.  Again, I think that the answer is some kind of mix between a
personality characteristic and the environment that a teacher
establishes.  I am struck by the culture of craftsmanship that some
teachers are able to create in these workshops.  It's not unlike the
kind of culture that you can find in the good artist's workshop or
dance studio.  

Alden: Yes, aesthetic response is an integral part of doing science
and mathematics.  Your mention of Paul Dirac reminds me of Henri
Poincare's famous essay in which he discusses the role a sense of
beauty plays in mathematical creation.  

Mercury: I completely agree that in "every line of work... there are
some people who care about what they do and some who do not."  I say
that in paragraph six of my last post (#63).    

But I'm not sure what in my post leads you to think that my book
simply "tells people that you need to do a good job at work."  The book
is about the way intelligence gets defined and the interaction of that
definition with social class and occupational status.  

A fair number of blue collar and service workers have contacted me
about the book and did not have the response that you attribute to
Susan and Stela.  

Archipelago:  Thanks for the strong portrait in post #69 and thanks
for the references to Overstory and to Gary Snider.  
inkwell.vue.232 : Mike Rose, "The Mind at Work"
permalink #75 of 96: Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Tue 14 Dec 04 08:39

There's another quality that goes into doing a superb job that you mention,
Mike.  You call it not problem-solving, but problem-finding.  Would you say
more about that?


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