Inside Higher Ed points out that this isn’t the first time Rubio has come down hard on philosophy majors—or the more traditional college paths, for that matter. And among many fact-checkers to challenge Rubio’s claims that welding is a more lucrative field than philosophy were Politifact, Vox, and the Washington Post. To be sure, there is not a clear winner. As the Boston Globe columnist Mark Pothier notes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ pay scales for those professions encompass several different types of jobs that vary widely by location. That being said, you’ll certainly find more job openings listed nationally for welders than those demanding philosophy degrees.
But the gold medal goes to the New York Times for actually finding a philosopher-turned-welder who has written a book extolling the virtues of his overlapping fields. Matthew B. Crawford found work at a think tank after graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in philosophy, the New York Times reports. But he was unhappy, and later became a welder and author. From the Times:
One of his books, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” is devoted to debunking the notion that manual trades are mindless. “The division between knowledge work and manual work is kind of dubious, because there is so much thinking that goes on in skilled trades,” Mr. Crawford said. As for the payoff, Mr. Crawford rejects the idea that philosophers cannot figure out how to earn a living.
“It’s obviously kind of a reductive approach to think of your course of study in college as merely a means to a paycheck,” Mr. Crawford said, suggesting the study of things like happiness can be enriching in ways that are hard to measure. “And nobody goes into philosophy because they think it’s going to make them rich.”
Writing for the Washington Post earlier this fall, Jeff Selingo dug into a Gallup Poll of 30,000 college graduates. Just 38 percent of individuals who graduated within the past 10 years “strongly agreed” that college had been worth the money. The numbers were even lower for graduates with student-loan debt. But as Selingo reported, that’s not surprising given the brutal hit the recent recession put on the nation’s job market:
For many of those with newly minted bachelor’s degrees, the job market is still not what it was for their counterparts a decade ago. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates has remained stuck around 9 percent. And nearly half of college graduates in their 20s are underemployed, meaning the jobs they have don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
The question of whether students should be prepared for college or careers isn’t a new debate. It’s one that surfaces periodically—typically during times of economic downturns. The higher-education community is continually struggling with how to prepare students for the jobs that await them, a particularly tricky task in fast-changing fields like science and engineering. High schools, as well, are rethinking career and technical education, which increasingly is replacing traditional vocational programs.