The Mind at Work

The Mind at Work

Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143035572
  • 304 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


Featuring a new preface for the 10th anniversary

As did the national bestseller Nickel and Dimed, Mike Rose’s revelatory book demolishes the long-held notion that people who work with their hands make up a less intelligent class. He shows us waitresses making lightning-fast calculations, carpenters handling complex spatial mathematics, and hairdressers, plumbers, and electricians with their aesthetic and diagnostic acumen.  Rose, an educator who is himself the son of a waitress, explores the intellectual repertory of everyday workers and the terrible social cost of undervaluing the work they do. Deftly combining research, interviews, and personal history, this is one of those rare books that has the capacity both to shape public policy and to illuminate general readers.

The Mind at Work

The Mind at Work

Written by: Mike Rose


“Rose is saying something profound about democracy.” —Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

“Eloquent tribute to our working men and women. It knocked me out.” —Studs Terkel

“Uplifting… shows a rare capacity to weave together elements of autobiography with the role of class in American education.” —Houston Chronicle

“An excellent corrective to the limited way that many of us understand intelligence.” —Newsday

“Rose wants to redeem [physical work]…he succeeds mightily.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Clear. Compelling. A celebration of blue-collar laborers; a family memoir; a learned treatise about different kinds of intelligence.” —Steve Weinberg, member of the National Book Critics Circle, The Denver Post

“There’s no condescension, pity, or sappy moralizing. You can’t help but have an increased respect for the mental part of labor.” —The Miami Herald

“A groundbreaking study…Extraordinarily moving, never dogmatic. Rose’s book puts an important piece of the U.S.’s social puzzle in bold relief.” —Publishers Weekly

“This book is brilliant, exciting, and essential…” —Michael B. Katz, author of The Undeserving Poor

“Thanks to Mike Rose’s impressive eye, the accomplishments of these workers are now visible.” —Howard Gardner, author of Changing Minds

“Like Walt Whitman, Mike Rose celebrates the many forms that intelligence can take in a democracy.” —David Tyack, Vida Jacks Professor of Education, Stanford University, author of Seeking Common Ground

“My everyday encounters with waitresses, electricians and handymen have been magically enriched since I read The Mind at Work.” —Barbara Garson, author of All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning of Routine Work

Table of Contents

Preface to the 10th anniversary edition xi
Introduction: Mind and Work xxxiii
  1. The Working Life of a Waitress 1

  2. Styling Hair 31

  3. The Intelligence of Plumbing 56

  4. A Vocabulary of Carpentry 67

  5. Reflective Technique: Electrical Wiring and Construction 100

  6. Two Lives: A Welder and a Foreman 116

  7. Rethinking Hand and Brain 141

  8. Hand and Brain in School: The Paradox of Vocational Education 167

  9. Conclusion: Working Life 195

Afterword: On Method 217

Acknowledgments 225

Notes 229