"Traditional" College Can Possess a Bloated Sense of Importance

It seems that college students increasingly believe that “Bread and Butter” careers are beneath them. The current trend of safe spaces at Mizzou and uprisings at Amherst show how these “regular” careers are disregarded and maligned. No, your degree in critical gender theory is not necessary for society to function efficiently. Yes, you have the freedom to pursue what you want, but a large dose of reality must accompany it.

Career pursuits of 2015 are vastly different than those of previous generations. We’re spoiled by the choices available to us, options which would/do seem fanciful to our grandparents. College graduates who major in fields which don’t have much practical, real-world application are left with few options. Either they must find an entry-level job in a different field altogether, or must sign up for further study in grad school and pursue specialization. While a college degree in any field can quite often be a plus in the job market, employers are not eagerly seeking those with lesbian studies degrees. It’s foolish to believe that society automatically owes you something because of your official status as a graduate.

College graduates 2

Slate was very proud of itself recently when, after the most recent GOP debate, it published an article aimed at highlighting a mistake made by Marco Rubio. In response to the first question of the night, one regarding minimum wage, Rubio said in part the following:

If I thought raising the minimum wage was the best way to help people increase their pay I would be all for it, but it isn’t. In the 21st century, it’s a disaster…Make America the best place in the world to start a business or expand an existing business. Tax reform, and regulatory reform. Bring our debt under control. Fully use our energy resources so we can reinvigorate manufacturing. Repeal and replace Obamacare and make higher education faster and easier to access—especially vocational training.

He concluded with…

For the life of me I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.

Of course, Slate went giddy with a graph explaining that yes, philosopher DO make more than welders. They’re so proud of it that they keep tweeting it.

 Yes. When you look at the dollar amount earned by philosophers vs welders, the philosophers make more. But that’s not really the point, is it? Slate completely ignores Rubio’s comments about how increasing pay by an arbitrary, feelings-based amount would be disastrous, how we need reforms of the tax and regulatory systems, and how there must be better access to education. Beyond that, the source of the chart data reveals a more important point. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2014, the number of people employed as Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary is 23,210. The total number of welders in the same report as indicated here and here totals 424,970.  It would appear that welders are clearly a necessity to society, whereas philosophers are not.

I am not against anyone pursuing whatever they want in college, but there must be some perspective. Trade/vocational schools train students for immediate, practical careers which are numerous. Furthermore, I don’t see trade school attendees protesting or hiding out in safe spaces for their own selfish, media-hyped gain. Could it be that overall, they don’t have a bloated sense of self-importance fueled by an emotions-first environment? Possibly.

In terms of higher education, it’s clear we need to set a realistic expectation for post-college job prospects. This is something that is very much a student’s responsibility. We see many current students already partaking in obnoxious displays of power on their respective campuses, and sometimes, succeeding. This fantasy will end once they reach the job market and meet reality face-to-face.  The truth is that possessing a 4-year college degree doesn’t increase your worth, and in some ways (depending on the major), might be a detriment in a world where welders outnumber philosophers.