An Interesting FB Comment From Mike Rowe Pencils And Education! And Open Thread!!!!


Bruce brought this to my attention the other day, and I wanted to share it with the rest of the readers.

Rowe was recently asked to comment about the criticism Gov. Walker has taken for not finishing college, his response from his FB page…..

Off The Wall

Kyle Smith writes…

Howard Dean recently criticized Gov Scott Walker for never finishing college, stating that he was “unknowledgeable.” What would your response be on college as a requirement for elected office?

Hi Kyle

Back in 1990, The QVC Cable Shopping Channel was conducting a national talent search. I had no qualifications to speak of, but I needed a job, and thought TV might be a fun way to pay the bills. So I showed up at The Marriott in downtown Baltimore with a few hundred other hopefuls, and waited for a chance to audition. When it was my turn, the elevator took me to the top floor, where a man no expression led me into a suite and asked me to take a seat behind a large desk. Across from the desk, there was a camera on a tripod. On the desk was a digital timer with an LED display. I took a seat as the man clipped a microphone on my shirt and explained the situation.

“The purpose of this audition is to see if you can talk for eight minutes without stuttering, blathering, passing out, or throwing up. Any questions?”

“What would you like me to talk about,” I asked.

The man pulled a pencil from behind his ear and rolled it across the desk. “Talk to me about that pencil. Sell it. Make me want it. But be yourself. If you can do that for eight minutes, the job is yours. Ok?”

I looked at the pencil. It was yellow. It had a point on one end, and an eraser on the other. On the side were the words, Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 SOFT.

“Ok,” I said.

The man set the timer to 8:00, and walked behind the tripod. He pressed a button and a red light appeared on the camera. He pressed another button and the timer began to count backwards. “Action,” he said. I picked up the pencil and started talking.

“Hi there. My name’s Mike Rowe, and I only have eight minutes to tell you why this is finest pencil on Planet Earth. So let’s get right to it.”

I opened the desk drawer and found a piece of hotel stationary, right where I hoped it would be. I picked up the pencil and wrote the word, QUALITY in capital letters. I held the paper toward the camera.

“As you can plainly see, The #2 Dixon Ticonderoga leaves a bold, unmistakable line, far superior to the thin and wispy wake left by the #3, or the fat, sloppy skid mark of the unwieldy #1. Best of all, the Ticonderoga is not filled with actual lead, but “madagascar graphite,” a far safer alternative for anyone who likes to chew on their writing implements.”

To underscore the claim, I licked the point. I then discussed the many advantages of the Ticonderoga’s color.

“A vibrant yellow, perfectly suited for an object that needs to stand out from the clutter of a desk drawer.”

I commented on the comfort of it’s design.

“Unlike those completely round pencils that press hard into the web of your hand, the Ticonderoga’s circumference is comprised of eight, gently planed surfaces, which dramatically reduce fatigue, and make writing for extended periods an absolute delight.”

I pointed out the “enhanced eraser,” which was “guaranteed to still be there – even when the pencil was sharpened down to an unusable nub.”

I opined about handmade craftsmanship and American made quality. I talked about the feel of real wood.

“In a world overrun with plastic and high tech gadgets, isn’t it comforting to know that some things haven’t evolved into something shiny and gleaming and completely unrecognizable?’”

After all that, there was still five minutes on the timer. So I shifted gears and considered the pencil’s impact on Western Civilization. I spoke of Picasso and Van Gogh, and their hundreds of priceless drawings – all done in pencil. I talked about Einstein and Hawking, and their many complicated theories and theorems – all done in pencil.

“Pen and ink are fine for memorializing contracts,” I said, “but real progress relies on the ability to erase and start anew. Archimedes said he could move the world with a lever long enough, but when it came to proving it, he needed a pencil to make the point.”

With three minutes remaining, I moved on to some personal recollections about the role of pencils in my own life. My first legible signature, my first book report, my first crossword puzzle, and of course, my first love letter. I may have even worked up a tear as I recalled the innocence of my youth, scribbled out on a piece of looseleaf with all the hope and passion a desperate 6th grader could muster…courtesy of a #2 pencil.

With :30 seconds left on the timer, I looked fondly at the Dixon Ticonderoga, and sat silently for five seconds. Then I wrapped it up.

“We call it a pencil, because all things need a name. But today, let’s call it what it really is. A time machine. A match maker. A magic wand. And let’s say it can all be yours…for just .99 cents.”

The timer read 0:00. The man walked back to the desk. He took the pencil and wrote “YOU’RE HIRED” on the stationary, and few days later, I moved to West Chester, PA. And a few days after that, I was on live television, face to face with the never-ending parade of trinkets and chochkes that comprise QVC’s overnight inventory.

I spent three months on the graveyard shift, five nights a week. Technically, this was my training period, which was curious, given the conspicuous absence of supervision, or anything that could be confused with actual instruction. Every few minutes a stagehand would bring me another mysterious “must have item,” which I’d blather about nonsensically until it was whisked away and replaced with something no less baffling. In this way, I slowly uncovered the mysteries of my job, and forged a tenuous relationship with an audience of chronic insomniacs and narcoleptic lonely-hearts. It was a crucible of confusion and ambiguity, and in hindsight, the best training I ever had.

Which brings me to the point of your question, Kyle.
I don’t agree with Howard Dean – not at all.

Here’s what I didn’t understand 25 years ago. QVC had a serious recruiting problem. Qualified candidates were applying in droves, but failing miserably on the air. Polished salespeople with proven track records were awkward on TV. Professional actors with extensive credits couldn’t be themselves on camera. And seasoned hosts who understood live television had no experience hawking products. So eventually, QVC hit the reset button. They stopped looking for “qualified” people, and started looking for anyone who could talk about a pencil for eight minutes.

QVC had confused qualifications with competency.
Perhaps America has done something similar?

Look at how we hire help – it’s not so different than how we elect leaders. We search for work ethic on resumes. We look for intelligence in test scores. We search for character in references. And of course, we look at a four-year diploma as though it might actually tell us something about common-sense and leadership.

Obviously, we need a bit more from our elected officials than the instincts of a home shopping host, but the business of determining what those “qualifications” are is completely up to us. We get to decide what matters most. We get to decide if a college degree or military service is somehow determinative. We get to decide if Howard Dean is correct.

Anyone familiar with my foundation knows my position. I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning. And I think that making elected office contingent on a college degree is maybe the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

But of course, Howard Dean is not the real problem. He’s just one guy. And he’s absolutely right when he says that many others will judge Scott Walker for not finishing college. That’s the real problem.

However – when Howard Dean called the Governor “unknowledgeable,” he rolled out more than a stereotype. He rolled a pencil across the desk, and gave Scott Walker eight minutes to knock it out of the park.

It’ll be fun to see if he does.


When you read this, you realize Mike Rowe is a very educated man.  He may not have the formal higher education many others have, but, look at the many things he called to mind without preparation!

Of course, Rowe isn’t the only one who is greatly educated, but, lacks any piece of paper conferred by a group of pinheads. 

There’s more to say about this, but, I’ll let the readers do it.  In the meantime, I’m getting ready for a mean game of Trivial Pursuit with my peeps!!!  BBS!

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27 Responses to An Interesting FB Comment From Mike Rowe Pencils And Education! And Open Thread!!!!

  1. DirkH says:

    Turkish fire brigade skill demonstration.

  2. DirkH says:

    If Paris is too dangerous for you and the Eiffel tower in the outskirts of Japan is too remote, just visit the one in Mumbai.

  3. DirkH says:

    Q: Why does Obama love Muslims?

    A: They invented the 0.

  4. Latitude says:

    I have a serious mancrush on Mike Rowe!…he’s my hero!

    Man’s got more common sense

  5. geran says:

    I don’t think Howard Dean ever impressed anyone with his “wisdom” from academia.

  6. squid2112 says:

    I can relate to Mike Rowe’s story. I too have led a similar life within my own profession. I am a very accomplished software engineer of more than 30 years. I have no high school diploma, no GED, no college degree, and yet, I have completed more than 7 years of college, assisted the completion of coursework for others for 3 Masters Degrees and 1 Phd. I have invented things like the interactive video kiosk. I have started 3 corporations and 1 very successful computer consulting firm. I have worked for companies ranging from recruiting software firms to the US Department of Defense. I have gained software patents, with several more pending as I write. And yet, I have not even “formally” passed the 11th grade.

    Interestingly, I have worked my way down the corporate ladder. Nearly at the start of my career I have been President and CEO of some small corporations. I have several times been a board member (still am). I have been a managing director, manager, and have occupied other such positions. And while I still sit on a board of directors and act as CIO/CTO for a corporation, I am ultimately a coder. I am a designer and constructor of software, which is what appears to be my calling and what I am good at (certainly not creative writing, as this comment will attest).

    Every company I have worked for, and every client I have had, they have all known these things and yet not one of them has ever cared that I lack a college pedigree. Why? Because I get the job done, I do it right and I do a very good job doing it. Unlike some of the people that I work with, who are extremely book smart, carry impressive college pedigree, Master’s Degrees, Phd’s, and the like, but are poor at application. I know how to apply my craft to the real world and solve the real world problems. Today, I work for one of the world’s largest and most successful energy equipment manufacturers (210,000+ employees worldwide). I work in a building with more than 300 other engineers and physicists, of all kinds, and I design and write software for embedded energy devices. I am one of the most well respected engineers within the arm of our company that I reside, all because of my accomplishments and what I can do, and what I do on a daily basis, and not for what academia has awarded me.

    For me, life has always been, “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can do”.

    I can relate to Mike Rowe’s story.

  7. Lars P. says:

    re fracking controversy:
    “The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S.”

    • DirkH says:

      Neither zerohedge nor the commenters realized that “wastewater fluid injection” is not fracking…

      Driving out more oil by injecting water or water vapor has for instance been used for decades in Saudi.

      • Lars P. says:

        “wastewater fluid injection” is not fracking…

        Good point. Interesting to see that the earthquackes are related to the wastewater injection and not the fracking process itself?
        I guess injecting was thought cheaper then filtering ….

        • DirkH says:

          For the oil extraction it’s not important whether you inject filtered water or wastewater. You inject it not to get rid of it, that’s not the main point; but to get more oil out.

          Some old Saudi fields these days produce 95% water (that has been injected somewhere else).

        • Lars P. says:

          “You inject it not to get rid of it, that’s not the main point; but to get more oil out.”

          I guess there might be some specific why in some specific case earthquackes results – related to fracking wastewater pumping and not general oil extraction? Either the qty of water resulting from fracking is higher then the qty needed to pump out oil, or in the oil case the pressure is eased when oil & water come out, or something else?

        • DirkH says:

          Well tiny quakes anyway. Researchers proud that they manage to detect them. Some normal structural collapses underground after mining or resource extraction. Zerohedge gives any alarmist a voice when it’s against fracking or generally Malthusian.

        • DirkH says:

          …with the exception of warmists. Somehow peak oil/ Malthusianism are LESS discredited than warmism these days. SOME achievement by the warmists!

      • cdquarles says:

        It has been used in the US since the 50s.

  8. Lars P. says:
    “UNUSUAL COMET DIVE-BOMBS THE SUN: Astronomers are puzzling over a comet that passed “insanely close” to the sun on Feb. 19th. At first glance it appeared to be a small object, not much bigger than a comet-boulder, doomed to disintegrate in the fierce heat. Instead, it has emerged apparently intact and is actually brightening as it recedes from the sun. “
    Interesting to see that small “dirty snowball” surviving passing at 4 radii from the sun, I understand the puzzled faces of the astromers…

  9. Jim Masterson says:

    Look at how we hire help – it’s not so different than how we elect leaders. We search for work ethic on resumes. We look for intelligence in test scores. We search for character in references. And of course, we look at a four-year diploma as though it might actually tell us something about common-sense and leadership.

    Having community organizer and college on his resume didn’t prepare one elected official for President–did it?


  10. DirkH says:

    Those new Drachma notes are way prettier than Euro notes, one has to say. Euro notes show generic phantasy architecture, not real architecture – the Euro-soviets wanted to create a generic Europeanness and destroy any connection to real monuments, as those would be identifiable as belonging to one of the dreaded nations. They look accordingly bland.

  11. jsue says:

    Bruce, thanks so much for passing this article along to James! It was one of the most enjoyable reads that I have seen in a while And kudos to Kyle Smith and his higher up’s for writing and publishing the article. Even though I have been a teacher for thirty years, I understand that traditional education’s “cookie-cutter” approach falls short for so many gifted people. Thankfully, many of them find their way despite the educational system.

    • Bruce of Newcastle says:

      Jeanette – I happen to be a person who can manage within the bounds of the education system, but I have worked with many people who achieve in real life yet never could cope with the madder requirements of a high school or a university. It has always been something I detested that talented people wouldn’t get a go just because they couldn’t play the game. In the education system particularly for conservatives and Christians it is getting more and more difficult as atheist progressives gain control and enforce their ideology.

      My brother almost was like this – he managed to get his 3 year degree by inertia in something he wasn’t really interetsed in, then went off and did fun stuff like travelling, working in restaurants and motorcycle courier jobs around the work before events rolled a double 6 and he found himself 15 years later in a dream job running a software company he started himself. It is going gangbusters, but could so easily never have happened. How many people were like him and became disillusioned or discouraged because they couldn’t force themselves over the line in the straightjacket education bureaucracy?

  12. cdquarles says:

    I am going to state something heretical in today’s world, but the technocratic masterminds don’t care for truth. Nearly no-one needs to go to college and schooling, which is mostly what a college degree indicates, is not the same thing as education. Education is personal. You get as much or as little as you want.

    A bench chemist does not need a bachelor’s degree. A theoretical chemist might need it; but both will learn more from a mentor and by doing than they will from books. Books help, mind you, to keep you from running down old rabbit holes; but even with that, sometimes you do need to check those holes when new information comes across the transom. Oh, yes, if you really want to learn a subject, try to teach it to others.

    Ironically, modern medicine does require advanced study, for the human organism is a complex thing and to understand pathological states you have to understand the things that define the ‘normal’ state. Outliers matter.

    I have become convinced that the biological world was initially designed and does indeed ‘evolve’ over time, but the mechanisms that were created, by design, conserve total information within the coding of the system, and none of the system could arise without all of the base information being present at the beginning. What is fascinating to me, from a chemist background, is how the system does so despite the vagaries of chemistry.

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