Letters to the Editor

Readers laud underappreciated workers and question the usefulness of business school ethics courses.

Recognize workers who truly keep the country running

In response to Jeffrey Shaffer's Opinion column, "A different gesture for the road crew," from May 4: The irony is that workers today who have the unglamorous jobs that Mr. Shaffer refers to will be precisely the ones who will have the last laugh in the years ahead.

According to Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the positions that will be secure in the future will be those that cannot be delivered abroad electronically. That includes auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and other blue-collar workers.

Graduates of even marquee-name colleges and universities will not be immune to job insecurity. So rather than disdain blue-collar workers, the appropriate attitude should be envy. If you doubt that, try getting a plumber on a Sunday evening.

Walt Gardner
Los Angeles

Regarding Jeffrey Shaffer's May 4 Opinion column on poorly regarded vocations: Mr. Shaffer writes, "Jobs not held in high esteem are often the ones that keep the country running."

How true! I have always thought that one of the most important jobs in America is collecting our people's voluminous garbage. We would be overrun with garbage and all kinds of health problems if we didn't have sanitation department workers serving us throughout the year.

I like Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote, "If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

We should appreciate more the people in our society who do the low-esteem jobs that keep the country running. Paying the workers higher wages would show that our appreciation is sincere.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr.
Louisville, Ky.

Regarding Jeffrey Shaffer's May 4 Opinion column on underappreciated workers: I was so happy to see the author actually noticed the utility workers. I watched my dad go out on "trouble" for 40-odd years in blizzards, rain, high winds, and incredible heat.

Sometimes he had to carry his tools and repair items, along with enough food and water for several meals. Once he had to hike into the mountains of central Arizona in 115-degree weather a good 10 to 15 miles, carrying all the above mentioned items.

I cannot count the times that someone would call our house to complain that he didn't have any electricity, and why wasn't my dad out doing something about it?

Once my father worked to bring the lights back on in an ice storm with nothing to eat, no heat, and no cover, and he stayed out there for a good 20 hours.

There were also times when Dad had a pole fall with him on it, and times when he had to duck lightning, and even times when he would go up to two days with nothing to eat.

I applaud Mr. Shaffer for noticing the people who go out every day to do sometimes thankless jobs.

Winona Lee Wacker
Hopkinsville, Ky.

In response to Jeffrey Shaffer's May 4 Opinion column about "jobs not held in high esteem": I am so glad the Monitor continues to print Mr. Shaffer's columns. They get right to the heart of things. I found his column on showing respect for the road crew especially poignant.

I've had several humble jobs in my life. Since then, I've seen the value of respecting each person's work as an important job that needs to be done. I've tried to teach this to my children. I wave at drivers when they let me into traffic and smile at drivers who stop for me while I cross the street.

This same attitude carries over into looking at the name tag of the clerk that carries out my bag at the grocery store so I can give them a personal "thank you."

Because I felt this was so important, I had my children open savings accounts at a local bank. It gave them practice looking clerks in the eye and thanking them by name.

Sometimes when I get annoyed with a teenager who isn't careful while bagging my groceries, I have to stop and think, "What if that was my daughter learning a new job? Wouldn't I want the customer to be kind and forgiving?"

Margarette Bull
Kirkland, Wash.

B-school ethics: too little, too late

Regarding your May 4 editorial, "Duke's B-school cheating scandal": You can't instill ethics in someone old enough to be in graduate school. By then they've either developed the concept of ethics in their thought or they haven't.

In business school, you can hone what is already there in students and help them appreciate the gray areas between issues, and this is why ethics should be taught. But it should be taught only within the context of regular classes.

Might B-schools have such a high proportion of cheaters because those with less sense of ethics are gravitating toward business degrees?

There has been plenty of evidence that you can do a lot of wrong in American business these days before you get caught.

The ones who have been caught are probably just the tip of the iceberg, which means there is a lot of incentive for business executives or even lower-level employees to continue wrongdoing.

Karen Selva
Colorado Springs, Colo.

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