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  (Curtis Lantinga)

 

(Curtis Lantinga)

MARGARET WENTE

Educated for unemployment Add to ...

Dear Class of 2012,

Congratulations! You’ve made it. After four years of postsecondary education, you now have a piece of paper suitable for framing, plus $27,889 in debt (give or take). You’ll land a job, eventually. But your paycheque may not go far, especially after the $373 you’ll be deducting every month for the next 10 years to pay back your student loans.

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I hate to say this, but if your degree is in sociology, psych, art history or much else on the soft side, you are a dime a dozen. Have you heard of supply and demand? Sorry! You’re on the wrong side of the equation.

Did anybody ever tell you about the job outlook for sociology majors, or what kind of salaries they make? I thought not. Most of our universities – the “soft” side, at any rate – are proudly disconnected from the job market. Our faculties of liberal arts and humanities believe that issues such as “relevance” and “employability” are, quite frankly, crass. The purpose of a university education is to cultivate critical thinking, not to churn out robotic, compliant workers for the postindustrial capitalist state. If our universities are producing three sociology and psych graduates for every job that actually requires a working knowledge of those fields, well, that’s not their concern. Besides, look at it from the faculty’s perspective. The higher the demand for sociology (etc.) degrees, the higher the demand for sociology (etc.) professors!

Here’s some more bad news. If all you have is a measly bachelor’s degree, your resumé won’t get a second look. You are competing with people who have master’s degrees. To be successful, you will probably need a master’s too, even though the job you get won’t actually require it. Degree and credential inflation are rampant. These days, you can’t even be a gym teacher unless you have a degree in kinesiology.

Degree inflation is good for universities, which desperately need bums in seats. But it is not so good for you, because you’ll have to spend another year or two in school and acquire another chunk of debt before you can even think of embarking on what’s conventionally regarded as your adult life.

Sociology professors are always complaining that I pick on sociology too much. But really, I could pick on journalism too. Journalism schools have spread like mushrooms in May. Some of them are excellent. They also provide high-quality employment for aging journalists, including some very, very dear friends who, I hope, will think of me some day if I ever get laid off. What these schools do not provide is jobs in journalism. That’s up to the job market, which, you may have noticed, is undergoing an epic tsunami.

I do not know what fraction of journalism students actually wind up in journalism. My impression is: not many. Journalism schools should be made to collect this information and post it prominently on their websites. Of course if they did, a lot of students might choose pharmacy instead.

I’m not saying that those of you who’ve majored in journalism or sociology have wasted your time. What I’m saying is that you’ve been sold a bill of goods. You deserved to have a better notion of how your considerable investment of time and money might pay off. You do not deserve to spend half your 20s in school in order to acquire expensive credentials that neither you nor your employer require. You certainly deserve a higher-education system that puts your needs first, rather than the needs of the faculty and the administration.

Good luck with that job hunt. You’re going to need it.

 

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