Philosophy and Jobs

One of the first things I teach my students when formulating an argument is not to insult the opposing side. Do as I say, not as I do–Terence Loose has written one of the dumbest articles I have ever seen on the subject of majoring in philosophy as preparation for the working world. It’s called “Don’t Bother Earning These Five Degrees,” and because the article appears on Yahoo, it no doubt gets some readers–

I’ll have to leave other disciplines to stand up for themselves, but no one really believes that you study philosophy or engage in the academic study of religion to find the meaning of life, do they? Really? Here’s what’s wrong with this article:

  1. You study philosophy in order to learn to think critically and construct a cohesive argument. A good philosophy class will prepare you for this like few other disciplines. This aspect of the humanities in general is neglected in this article.
  2. Employers do respect the rigor philosophy courses require and the variety of sticky issues of a practical nature to which ethics courses introduce students entering the work force. For this reason, studying philosophy is a practical endeavor, not just a noble one.
  3. It is always advisable to double major, whatever disciplines you choose, or at least to have a major and a minor, and to pair these wisely and marketably.
  4. Have we really come to the point that we tell even idealistic young people in their twenties not to bother to think about meaning?! Don’t we want them to think for themselves?
  5. Neither Terence Loose nor Vicki Lynn must have taken a philosophy course, or at least a decent one. As with any subject of study, if students are asked to memorize facts, then the purposeful application in the real world is questionable, but if they were taught to think, most employers would see the value in that. If they don’t, you might want to apply elsewhere.
  6. Periodically, articles come out that document how many CEOs of big companies actually were philosophy majors or majors in some other discipline in the humanities. They are successful because they are not fact-memorizing drones but people who ask “why”? or “why can’t we”?’
  7. It is preposterous to suggest that instead of studying philosophy, you should major in education, because this degree “could satisfy that hunger to find a deeper meaning in your studies.” In my experience, these are two completely different kinds of students, and, unfortunately, the former are rarely capable of reading philosophy texts with much success.
  8. To take up for some of the other “unwanted degrees”–many of them do lend themselves to graduate school. Is there anything wrong with getting a degree that takes you to grad school, rather than into a low-paying job with one of these more “practical” BA’s?
  9. The statistics here have to be disingenuous. I bet the 10% unemployment rate of philosophy majors is on par with the unemployment rate of college graduates in general, regardless of major.

Most annoying–why is there no place on the site for me to comment directly under the article? Could it be because the whole article is a marketing ploy to direct the reader to online diploma mills?

We have one shot in America to teach young people to think. It’s what we do better for a wider variety of the population in our colleges and universities compared to our European counterparts. Are we really willing to concede this ground to the kind of lowest common denominator group-think this article promotes?


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