Andrew Braaksma’s "Some Lessons from the Assembly Line": Education and Blue Collar Working

Published: 2021-09-14 10:15:10
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“Some Lessons from the Assembly Line” is a compelling article authored by Andrew Braaksma. Through his contrasting college studies and blue-collar laborer experiences, Braaksma suggests that to escape the hardships faced in the blue-collar industry from low-level education, adolescents should seriously entertain the pursuit of a college education before jumping into the workforce, as all lessons are not solely learned in the classroom. Using writing descriptions that paint vivid images, the author offers a look into his experiences in the factories and the hardships of life with little education, opposed to his less taxing life of seeking higher education for better opportunities on the college campus. The author’s exposure to low wages, back-breaking days, heavy-machinery and long hours are all signs of life without a degree that compel him to strive even harder in his studies and to educate others about the insecurities blue-collar workers face. His article supported numerous reasons why lessons are not only learned in the classroom and that hard work is not only for the workplace.
An analytical reading of the article, “Some Lessons from the Assembly Line” by Andrew Braaksma revealed the author’s goal has changed. Initially, I understood the author’s goal as to inform his audience of the importance of higher education and to work hard. My initial interpretation of the author’s goal was based on the belief that he intended to persuade the audience by stressing the differences in on-campus life versus off-campus life. However, I now understand the author’s aim was not to persuade the audience by noting the differences between on and off campus life, but instead, to explain that education is invaluable, can provide a more stable career, and not to undervalue hard work. In his statement, “Factory life has shown me what my future might have been like had I never gone to college in the first place”, he recounted his experiences as a factory worker to prove the significance of the investment in higher education and that lessons aren’t only learned in school.One key point was that the author struggled with the reality of the blue-collar worker wage, opposed to the life he could be afforded as a degreed professional. As suggested in key point one, he struggled with feeling undervalued in his role as a blue-collar worker, so it seems normal that Braaksma would feel “as cocksure as a college student” being that most young adults his “age always seem to overestimate the value of their time and knowledge”. He expresses his disbelief further by saying, “After a particularly exhausting string of 12-hour days at a plastics factory, I remember being shocked at how small my check seemed”. However, campus living is expensive and a part-time food service or retail job is not as financially rewarding as the overtime pay from the factory and amount of money saved up by returning home during the summer break. Although the author makes a similar statement, he also suggests that becoming a degreed professional can ensure a healthier wage which makes education a powerful tool if used properly. The assumption that hard work and long hours constitute a large paycheck is not realistic in a low-wage job, but all skills and work have value. I agree with the author’s point that education opens more doors. The youth being introduced into the real world today will perceive themselves to be of higher intelligence and a more valuable in skill set to the workforce even though they have no former work experience. The author gave sound examples of his experiences to support his claim. His article provides ample reasons why adolescents should consider all their options prior to jumping straight into the workforce after high school.
The second key point was the author’s feeling of guilt for using his blue-collar summer job to benefit his financial desire to finish his education while others made the life of labor their livelihood. Evidence of the author’s guilt as mentioned in key point two is shown when he utters,
“Many people pass their lives in the places I briefly work, spending 30 years where I spend only two months at a time. When fall comes around, I get to go back to a sunny and beautiful campus, while work in the factories continues”.
The writer’s admissions to feeling “like a tourist dropping in where other people make their livelihoods” and “lessons about education” that were “learned at the expense of those who weren’t fortunate enough to receive one” also serve as evidence.
The temporary nature of Braaksma’s need to work in the factory makes him feel remorseful for his fully vested coworkers who have not been afforded his type of educational opportunity. Unbeknownst to him, he was still receiving an education, but this time, it was in the school of hard knocks; the factory. The lifers in the factory educated him about the true reality of the blue-collar worker. Those people and their stories encouraged him to study harder in school. With such a wealth of wisdom around him in the factory, the author’s guilt is warranted and reasonable. Relationships were created in those factories and no one wants to leave people they care about behind.
The third, and most profound key point, was when the author displays maturity and growth gained by working hard for his money, his education and future dreams. In a modest, yet mature tone, he said, “The things that factory work has taught me–how lucky I am to get an education, how to work hard, how easy it is to lose that work once you have it”. The author revealed, “When I’m back at the university, skipping classes and turning in lazy re-writes seems like a cop-out after seeing what I would be doing without school”. His humble acknowledgement of how the hard life in the factory all those summers made a huge impact in his life lends itself as evidence that the author does not undervalue hard work. Advertisements promoting education as a means to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life has always been abundant. Throughout his article, the author sets the tone for students to recognize that hard work does not only apply to physical labor, but also, towards earning an education. His choice to share his most intimate feelings about the lessons he has learned in hopes of helping another person make a better choice was a good decision. Making an informed decision will always be smarter than making an uninformed one. The evidence of experience given by the author is a great source of advice for students stuck in the college versus workforce debate.
In conclusion, author and college junior, Andrew Braaksma offered graduating seniors a substantial look into the blue-collar industry through his experiences. Education goes far beyond the classroom and invaluable life lessons come from the most unexpected situations. Success can found in hard work and hard studies. Young adults heading into the world to find their place should understand that going to college to advance their future and joining the workforce as a blue-collar laborer are choices. The entrance into adulthood is full of fear and uncertainties, but as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
The struggle to afford the current cost of living is stressful, so the author is right to continue pursuing his degree as a way to have more skin in the game of wage earning. A degree gives a job seeker a higher level of confidence. Blue-collar workers can benefit from the author’s lessons too by taking classes or seeking a trade that enhances their skill set and puts them in a more stable position. As life progresses, perspectives change and mind states mature on education paths, money and employment. This is the case for the author and will also be the case for many other students in like situations.
Students should recognize the key component to success as the combination of education and hard work. Since they are about to head off into their future, it is important that they seek counsel about degree plans, schools, careers, and answers to any other questions that have eluded them throughout their high school years.

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