Mike Rose intended “Brains As well As Brawn” as a tribute to the intelligence of the blue class workers in our society. These workers are traditionally thought of as simple-minded due to the type of employment they undertake. Rose asserts that while Labor Day celebrates the backbreaking work done by the blue collar workers, it does not appreciate the complicated calculations and troubleshooting that are often a large part of the job. As a result, blue-collar workers are subject to social segregation, as blue- and white-collar workers tend to live different lifestyles.
The first and second paragraphs of Rose’s essay depict the work that we often think of as mindless – installing doors in a home. However, Rose shows the reader that the work is much more complicated and requires precise measurements and angles. In addition, he shows the average laborer as a leader who must take control of the budget in the second paragraph: “And how can he put it all together fast enough and smart enough to make his labor pay?” This work is depicted as easy by do-it-yourself promotions that insist that the average person can install a door or replace a toilet. If the average person can do it, then the work is less likely to be seen as requiring specialized knowledge.
Rose begins the third paragraph by informing the reader that he is writing a Labor Day tribute. Due to the depictions of laborers as unintelligent, Rose’s thesis is that physical labor is just as intellectually demanding as it is physically demanding. He came to this conclusion after spending time observing different blue-collar workers.
Rose explains in the fifth paragraph that each blue-collar job required the worker to manage their time well while juggling several different tasks at once and ensuring that the overall result is completed with precision. This would be a tall order for any individual, much less one who was unintelligent. Rose does acknowledge that white-collar work requires a substantial financial investment as well as two to four years of schooling. The result of these sacrifices is that white collar workers are thought of as intelligent, while blue collar workers are not.
Mike Rose not only explains the problem, but he concludes his essay by describing a possible outcome to this kind of prejudice.
If society labels whole categories of people, identified by their occupations, as less intelligent, then social separations are reinforced and divisions constrict the kind of civic life we can create or imagine. And if society ignores the intelligence behind the craft, it mistakes prejudice for fact.
Rose is concerned that when individuals are segregated based on the status of their occupations they are restricted from sharing ideas. White-collar individuals may look at a newly-finished home and not appreciate the complicated work underneath the façade. By understanding that blue-collar work requires the same amount of intelligence as trading stocks, we can eliminate the prejudice from our society.