A most unlikely debate has erupted over Marco Rubio’s comment in last night’s debate that welders earn more money that philosophers.
It’s a strange controversy since, as Steven Wedgeworth said on Twitter, “There can’t really be this many philosophy majors.” He’s right, of course. But the debate isn’t really about which profession makes more money (at least I don’t think it is). It seems to be more a defense of the liberal arts in general. What is peculiar is that philosophy defenders are basing their argument on monetary grounds rather than pointing out the irrelevance of wages to the life of the mind.
As Anthony Bradley asked a few years ago, “When Did College Education Reduce To Making Money?”
Our country’s narcissistic materialism has created a neurotic obsession with disparities between the incomes of individuals resulting in an overall devaluing of the learning goals and outcomes of what colleges exist to accomplish. There is a major disconnect here. I wonder if this explains why many parents do not want their children studying the humanities in college.
While I completely agree with Anthony about what the purpose of college should be (“a place where men and women are educated and formed into more virtuous citizens”), I think he’s overlooking how we got into this situation: College is priced like a luxury good but treated as a prerequisite for most forms of employment.
Unfortunately, the types of degrees that best fulfill the primary function of a college (e.g., liberal arts) are also the most likely to lead to underemployment.
A couple of years ago, Andy Whitman wrote an article for Image, “Starbucks and the Liberal Arts Major”, that highlighted the problem: