Phrase used to refer to a shoe-shiner
, i.e. one who shines shoes
. Often used as an example of a menial-labor
position near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder
, some shoe-shine
boys have an opportunity
to interact directly with with members of
. As implied by the phrase, child laborers
as shoe-shine boys.
Various accounts exist of people rising from shoe-shine boys to
positions of power and importance.
As a teenager, Malcolm X worked as a shoe-shine boy at the Roseland
Ballroom in Boston, giving him the opportunity to see most of the jazz
giants of the 1930s.
Former senior Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York was a
shoe-shine boy in Manhattan at age fourteen.
A shoe-shone boy was the topic of the song "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine
Boy", originally made famous by Red Foley in the 1950s.
shoe-shine boy (idea)
A mostly-passive role within a problem-solving method. A person
trying to solve a complex problem may try to talk through the problem
with someone who has little or no subject-matter knowledge (the
shoe-shine boy). Through the course of explaining the problem, along
with some surrounding context, the person presenting the problem will
often discover the solution by his or herself. Although the
shoe-shine boy may not contribute anything directly to solving the
problem, he allows the problem-solver to put thoughts into words. The
activity of presenting the problem, even to someone who does not
understand the presentation, forces the problem-solver to explicitly
organize and think about all of the individual issues. Sometimes
naive comments made the shoe-shine boy will trigger lines of thought
or inspire thinking outside the box.
Unlike problem-solving techniques involving a fresh set of eyes or a
sounding board, employing a shoe-shine boy does not require finding
someone else who understands the context or subject area.
In many cases, putting thoughts down into words
will have similar results.