Intellectual Skills

Readings: Matthew Crawford, “The Case for Working with Your Hands” and Peter Waldman, “Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom”

Question: Both Matthew Crawford, in “The Case for Working with Your Hands,” and Peter Waldman, in “Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom,” write about work. For Crawford, who owns a motorcycle repair shop and has a PhD in political philosophy, meaningful work is that which has tangible results – something that can be solved with the hands. He writes, “A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this” (11). In praise of manual labor, Crawford argues that, unlike stereotypes of mechanics or plumbers, tradespeople deploy all sorts of intellectual skills, from complex thinking and diagnostic dexterity to ethical concerns and metacognition. In contrast, Waldman discusses the very real risks of working with your hands. Describing conditions of manufacturing jobs in the south, Waldman argues that low wages, inadequate training, and a lack of strong union protection often result in a dangerous work environment and frequent injury. Despite repeated OSHA violations that remain unaddressed, with few other options, many poor and working-class people feel they have no other choice but to work in the factories. This paints a very different picture of manual labor. After contemplating the above, please respond to the following prompt:

Make an argument about work. Possible directions might include: Why do we work? What is the value of work? What conditions limit and/or expand our work choices? What is the relationship between manual labor and the mind?

Keep in mind the following as you revise:

  • Thesis: You must make an original claim that addresses the assignment question by the end of the first paragraph.
  • Citation: You must use evidence from the text to support your claim.
  • Analysis: Do not summarize! You are responding to Crawford’s and Waldman’s ideas, not repeating them.
  • Reflection: As you write, keep asking: So what? Why does this matter? Then explain why it matters.

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