>> Sunday, April 11, 2010
*Steps on soapbox*
On my posts earlier in the week regarding the attitude toward "poor people," education was mentioned and Relax Max pointed out that getting an education was less than useful if there wasn't a job to plug into.
I sort of agree but I mostly don't. Here's why.
The part I sort of agree because, of course, that's technically true. Few people are going to jump from college to a new business and make a killing. Most will be looking for jobs. And, all "educations" are not the same when it comes to marketability. If you get a bachelor's degree in "English" for instance, you are not going to be as marketable as someone who gets a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. In fact, a Ph.D. in English is unlikely to garner you as many options as a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and, with a masters or Ph.D. in chemical engineering, you may never have to worry about unemployment. That's not a reflection on the value of knowledge of the English language, mind you, but a reflection on (a) how common the degrees are and (b) how useful potential employers find them.
However, I mostly don't agree because, when it comes there are a number of professions we are desperately short of like technical degrees. And one's prospects with a bachelor's degree are much better than they are otherwise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates (people >25) for those with a Bachelor's degree or more is 4.9% vs. 14.5% for those who don't have a high school diploma, 10.8% for those who have a high school diploma, and 8.2% for those with some college. There are also nearly 4x as many degreed people employed (45.8 million vs. 11.8 million) as those who don't have high school diplomas. So, an English degree is certainly better than nothing at all.
I suspect there are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that, if you're choosing between two job applicants, a degree is as good a reason as any to pick one over the other.
But, the truth is, there are a number of places where we have shortages, including nurses, doctors, scientists, engineers, and any number of technical experts. I might also point out that ideas and creative thinking have done more for this country than any other natural resource.
Unfortunately, the availability of higher education is not equitable. True, some exceptional students who are completely focused and brilliant with the right teachers and the right circumstances can sometimes get a real education anyway. It can happen if they manage to learn the study habits they need and stay focused and get the support they need and get lucky. It can happen, just like people can sell their first novel to the first publisher they ask or become a rich and famous singer out of the blue. But it's not easy.
If, however, one's parents are educated and (almost always) relatively comfortably off, college is often almost a given.
Many of us pretend that everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else.
Sadly, that's not so. And those without educations are suffering disproportionately.
And that's not even counting how much better off our country might be with more technical expertise.
*Steps off soapbox*