Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bachelor's Degree in Sarcasm

Bachelor's Degree in Sarcasm

The Money Matters Column in Gawker has a beautiful chart from a report by Georgetown University in their post " College Is a Decent Bet (That You Might Lose)". Gawker cites a post by Motoko Rich in the NY Times Economix Blog that "The bachelor's degree holders most likely to be at a disadvantage, he said, are those with liberal arts degrees. "

 Gawker then posits (possibly in a sarcastic tone) 
"...the chart above shows you just how many people with a lower level of education than you will end up making more money than you. Not a ton, but just enough to make you question whether that art history degree was really worth it, or whether you would have been better off using that money to pay for plastic surgery to turn yourself into a white male. (Yes.) Haha, but seriously, no, overall, chances are you're better off going to school."
Kim Brooks of  Salon writes "Is it Time to Kill the Liberal Arts Degree?" and cites the same NY Times article. She then tries to chases down the obvious question from her Alma Mater the University of Virginia: 
"When I asked him how a 22-year-old with no job, no income, no health insurance and, in some cases, six figures of college debt to pay off is supposed to be a citizen of the world, he said he had no comment, that he was the wrong person to talk to, and he directed me to another dean, who was also unable to comment."

Issue 1 -- too much sarcasm is a bad thing:

I take issue with the Gawker post, because it is difficult to see their opinion - the sarcasm is a touch strong and it left me questioning their intent. The Georgetown report makes the same (devastating) statement about the liberal arts degree, without introducing sarcasm and with a clear opinions of pending failure.

Recommendation 1 -- Read the Salon article, skip the Gawker article:

The Brooks article was more specific to the question. I have to take issue with the two (2!) Deans from the University of Virginia that could not reply to the most basic question of why does your Liberal Arts program exist? How do you take tuition for a program that has no specific benefits (how did you even get your job)?

Disclaimer Time

I have a Liberal Arts degree (History) and an MBA, my brother has a Liberal Arts degree (Psychology) a professional degree (MD) which cost him 6 more years of school and hundreds of hours of internship. He is much smarter than the average bear and we are Hispanic. Face it, not everyone can be an MD, RN or Engineer. 

So let's review the rules:

  1. A college degree is not a guarantee of a job
  2. A college degree is not about a guarantee of success
  3. A college degree is not a guarantee of happiness, riches or satisfaction
  4. A college degree that that sinks you into $100,000 of debt does guarantee a long lasting relationship with the US Government
The Georgetown Report makes it crystal clear that "workers progress up an occupational hierarchy, not an industry-based one". Interesting that they provided no commentary on how this might manifest itself in unemployment - as it would appear to exacerbate structural unemployment.

Of course, a Liberals Art Major might prove to be flexible enough to leap over structural problems. 


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