Guessing at what LePage saw in cartoon

After more than three years in office, we know our governor to be an abrupt and impulsive man who often speaks curtly and then leaves the explaining to others.

That's what happened last week when the governor's staff was left trying to explain a cartoon the governor mailed to the state's school principals that seemed to poke fun at college-bound students.

The cartoon showed two students, one headed to welding school the other to college. The cartoon pegged a starting salary for a welder at $50,000 and the starting salary of a college student as $25,000.

"Folks," the governor wrote beneath the cartoon. "We need to do better and we can do better. Let's put our children first."

First, it is necessary to know that cartoons are often exaggerations of reality meant to get laughs or make people think.

So, fact-checking a cartoon is a little absurd, yet the state's newspapers went at it with enthusiasm last week.

The Bangor Daily News correctly pointed out a raft of studies showing that higher levels of education are generally associated with higher levels of pay, often much higher.

A variety of sources do indeed show welders can make a decent living with a starting salary of between $12.50 and $17 per hour, but that's more like $24,000 to $36,000 a year, not $50,000.

So, it's just not accurate to say that welders make that much more money than college graduates, particularly in higher paying fields like math, science and engineering.

But the real point of the cartoon was the little thought bubble over the college-bound student's head: "Loser," he's thinking as he looks at the welding student.

We're just guessing here, but we suspect that was the point the governor was trying to get across to the state's high school principals.

If we may put words in his mouth, he was saying we need to fight the wide-spread attitude that blue-collar jobs are low-paying dead ends.

The governor is heavily influenced by the small business people he has met as he travels around the state. Many have told him that they cannot find qualified Mainers to fill skilled manufacturing positions. This shortage is unfortunate and a frustrating drag on the state's economic growth.

But the governor, the manufacturers and school principals are fighting a deeply embedded attitudinal prejudice that unfairly ranks and classifies occupations.

Many are vestiges of another era when carrying a briefcase implied brain work and creativity, and carrying a toolbox meant manual labor, rote and low pay.

These broad generalizations were never accurate and they have become far less so as our world has become, in all respects, more technical and complex.

If you think fixing the engine on your modern car is simple, just try doing it yourself sometime.

But young people choose careers for many reasons. Students no doubt want a paycheck, but they are likely also interested in the respect they will receive in their chosen field.

The governor's message was that we need to change those old-fashioned, unfair and often inaccurate perceptions of technical careers.

A four-year degree is a worthy goal, but it is not the only worthy goal and it is not the only way to make a good living.

That's a message we all need to hear and repeat.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Guessing at what LePage saw in cartoon

ed. 12.09.27 4 pm HST
Ignor ance is not ßliss Hon . Gov.
Pretty bad when the whole State is a laughingstock these days . .
" Many have told him that they cannot find qualified Mainers to fill skilled manufacturing positions. " Your young people leave . Maine's population has been ? 1,000,000 people since. .. ? 1 8 9 9 ( fact check that :)
Why stay there with buffons like _______________ ?
hth ? Steve

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Having been on both sides of the fence...

I spent twenty five years driving anything that had wheels. From small tow trucks to very large tow trucks, school buses, and tractor trailers. During that time I tried other pursuits such as building mobile homes and working for a small telephone company. I also managed to get a couple of college degree's in there someplace. When at the age of 44 I went to work in the "high tech" world, I did make a ton of money. I spent a long time wishing for a more stable work environment, As well as more money. When I finally got that position, I wasn't sure it was what I wanted. One thing I did find out when I started working with the,engineer's and corporate types who went to college right out of school, and had already made their fortune. Most were more interested about what it was like, driving a truck across Texas, or anywhere for that matter. It was like they spent their lives, wondering what My type of work was like, I wanted to know what their work was like. I guess I'm fortunate to have worked both sides of the street. I guess when it comes right down to it. It's how you feel about what you do, not what anyone else thinks. If you keep that philosophy, you won't drive yourself nuts.....

RONALD RIML's picture

The Governor is Heavily Influenced????

I've often thought of him under the influence. And not always by what's said by small business people.......

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Only contempt for a

Only contempt for a successful business career - hmm!

A trend?

RONALD RIML's picture

Is that what you call all 'Draft Dodgers?'


MARK GRAVEL's picture

You cannot deny that Romney

You cannot deny that Romney did not have a successful business career. You can even say Romney’s money and success is the envy of many.

RONALD RIML's picture

Mark, do you too fit Romney's Plastic Mold???




Three, Count 'em, Three Romney's in One!!!

Steve  Dosh's picture

l o l . ." Plastics " -- The

l o l . ." Plastics " -- The Graduate . 1970 ? i would have used the term " Wooden ." Like Al Gore , too , and political dynasties never never work out well. North Korea ,.The Gores _ The Romneys . , The Byshes , etc . i kinda' like our SECSTATE though . She's fine <3 Jimmy Caret was a better presidnet out of office than in :) /s Steve

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Just calling it as I see it.

Just calling it as I see it.

 's picture

our everyday lives rely more

our everyday lives rely more on tradespeople. plumbers, electricians, nurses, mechanics, they make our world run. we actually need people who can fix a septic, repair a furnace or car, work on power lines, weld, and build a house. 20 engineers sitting around a blueprint will make a great print, but not a product. and quite often the guys building whatever it is can point out flaws just because they have the actual experience of creating. tradespeople are well educated, and often go on to become engineers, having the years of field experience to help guide them to design and build better products. and those with field experience to back up their degrees are more valued in the employment pool. degrees in science, math, and engineering are all higher paying only if you can get a job in those fields.

unfortunately, our culture looks down on tradespeople, preferring our children go into "thinking" degrees. my husband works at bowdoin college doing heating and refrigeration work. those students will cover their heating units with decorative blankets then complain that they are cold, and office workers apparently have nothing better to do then play "hot and cold" wars with their thermostats. the students also can't seem to understand that if a toilet is plugged and marked "out of order", you shouldn't keep using it anyway. yet the supposedly smarter people are the office workers and students. thats our culture for you.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You can citizen tradespeople

You can citizen tradespeople until you have to open up that wallet and pay for, say, plumbing repair for example.

Betty Davies's picture

Your offshore status is showing again...

I gave you fair warning a week or two ago, when your oddball use of the word "citizen" gave you away as an out-of-the-country troller... Now you've done it again. Better take a closer look at your playbook. You've been misreading your lines.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I blame it on Steve Jobs and

I blame it on Steve Jobs and auto-correct Betty.


Assuming too much

Isn't it just as foolish to assume that college educated people are stupid as it is to assume a plumber or carpenter is? I know college educated people who run organic farms and electricians who went on to become engineers. Making blanket judgements just doesn't ring true.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Claire, This entire dribble


This entire dribble has nothing to do with anything; the market decides your worth. In some cases, a plumber has more economic value than someone with a college degree.


Your worth

Your worth to whom? If the market was really a good barometer of a person's worth then garbage collectors would be hiding their money in the Caymans. Eliminate them, the teachers, firemen, police, plumbers, electricians, auto repairmen and see what your city looks like. Eliminate a hundred Romneys, football players, guitar strummers and who would even notice? The market may be a good measure of society's worship for greed and flash but it certainly is no measure of a person's character or worth. I heard it said somewhere that" Every great fortune is based on a great crime" I am yet to see that proven untrue.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Claire, I think you are


I think you are confusing societal or personal worth with economic worth. As long as there are 10000+ people that can and willing to collect garbage, then their econcomic worth is what it is - low. As long as people are willing to pay to see the sport or rock star, that is what they are worth - high.

While you may personally place different and personal values on those jobs you mention, the only true measure is what the economy is willing to pay.

RONALD RIML's picture

Says a lot for Mark's 'Market'

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Are you being insensitive to

Are you being insensitive to SJ readers who struggle with weight?

RONALD RIML's picture

MacDonald's cater to it's market

As Republicans cater to the Ignorant......

I see you never struggle with a conscience.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Then whom do the Democrats

Then whom do the Democrats cater to – the greedy and envious dependency class.
After I read the liberal attacks on the people, yes, I no longer struggle with my conscience – just say no. The left’s dependency on the government (i.e. my wallet) is self-evident.


An old line

People are getting tired of politicians who pander to bigots in order to get themselves elected. In the old days it was the Jews. After the holocaust, it was the intellectuals, socialists and communists (codeword Jews). Then it was the blacks. After the Civil Rights laws, it became the criminals (codeword blacks). Now it is the dependent people and fraudulent voters,(codeword blacks and hispanics). Mitt put his foot in it with his 47% remarks. It turns out most of them are poor Southern whites, seniors and soldiers serving in combat zones. And those folks are his constituency. Wrong codeword.

Jason Theriault's picture

Not only that

But as one of these college educated people, what I do is hidden from view. But without me, those HVAC people don't get paid for fixing those furnaces, the pharmacist doesn't get your prescription, and the website where you posted this doesn't run.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Somehow, humanity survived

Somehow, humanity survived for millenniums prior to Jason. We are all just replacable August gnats.

Jason Theriault's picture


I think it would have remembered it surviving without me.

My point is that unless your version of HVAC is a potbellied stove, a company made it. And that company required people from janitor to CEO. And that company required services from banks, and other logistics companies. Just because you don't see white collar workers doesn't make them any less critical to the process.

Really, what it comes down to is you need to find work that makes you happy, be it white or blue collar.


Modern education

I'm delighted to see the new movement towards a national curriculum. And I'm thrilled to see that the new curriculum is getting away from the current trend towards training kids to regurgitate answers on standardized tests and going back towards teaching kids to think. Getting a real education is not supposed to be like a vacation nor should it be brainwashing. It is more like climbing a mountain. And when through much effort and stretching of your mind you finally reach the top, you look over and see hundreds of mountains ahead. It is at this point that you realize the point of an education is not to climb a mountain but to learn how to climb mountains. This can be accomplished with technical as well as liberal arts subjects. The two are not exclusive. In today's society, you are never done learning. The person who will succeed is the one who can adapt and think outside the box. It is way past time school systems stop their fascination with testing and get back to teaching.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So how do you measure

So how do you measure progress?

There are many things in life that are simple memorization – stove, hot. Lefty loosy; righty tightly.



Obviously you do need some testing. I think general testing in the fall to measure where you are and in the spring to measure progress should be enough. Individual testing for failing students perhaps should occur in January. When I left teaching we were testing for 9 weeks and were buried in testing data that only told us what we already knew. There are also tests that are way more valuable to the teacher than others. The ones that tell you how you stand with schools in Europe for example are way less valuable than the ones that measure individual student progress and that show deficits in prior learning. We are wasting time and money testing for political ideological proof that we are or are not meeting some arbitrary standard.


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