While researching people’s attitude toward philosophy on the internet, I typed in the words “useless degrees” and came across some scary statistics and articles about what we, as a society, consider useless. From Yahoo to the Huffington Post, everyone seems to have comments on the top useless degrees people can earn at colleges and universities.
I examined the lists and they gave me the chills. Most lists include the following: English, journalism, media, political science, advertising, history, archaeology, music, philosophy, religious studies, graphic design, mechanical engineering, family studies, nutrition, agriculture and even chemistry. Out of curiosity, I entered the opposite in the search engines to see what comes up for the most useful degrees. These lists include the following: medical science, business and management, economics, computer science, education, mathematics and statistics, law, environmental engineering and, biochemistry. Although not all sites agree on the items that should make the lists, it is shocking to see some of the most commonly appearing items on them, just mentioned above. Now, I understand that these lists were created mostly for the purpose of highlighting economical circumstances and the current job market. Basically, the lists are guidelines for the younger generations to help them decide what career path to take. Still, I could not help but wonder what it says about society at large.
I would argue that useful means, in the sense the websites are using the word, the values society currently treasures. By the looks of it, society seems to treasure health, but only when people are already sick; chemistry, but only for the purposes of manipulating the Earth; education, but not as far as actually teaching people to read or write properly; politics, but only at the stage lawyers need to be involved; business, but farmers and mechanics are not invited to the table; and, information technology, but not accurately checked facts by journalists or similar experts. The lists also exclude entire segments of society. People today do not treasure artists, philosophers, spiritual experts or historically important information gathered by historians or archaeologists. Instead, by the looks of it, society seems to be driving the entire population toward an interconnected world where wealth and the power to manipulate matter the most. Is this the society people want to live in?
Patricia Lewis’ article, entitled “Don’t waste your time on these worthless degrees,” includes a curious statement, according to which a person can have a collection of 5,000 books in a private library for personal interest and not waste his or her time pursuing an education in humanities. I found this statement incredibly funny. Here is the reason for it. If people do not treasure disciplines, for example humanities, who is going to write those books in the future so that people can have 5,000 of them in their private collections? Imagine the following scenarios. William Shakespeare decides that there is not any money in producing English literature and becomes a plumber instead. Plato decides that he is better off not worrying about the ideal republic people should live in and becomes a lawyer instead. Joan of Arc decides that patriotism is overrated and opens up a bakery shop instead. Caprese Michelangelo decides that painting the Sistine Chapel does not increase his fortune enough to justify spending years on it and becomes and art dealer instead. Do I need to go on?
The point is that society currently seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Society does not treasure the entire human inspiration and aspiration anymore. It no longer wants to create a well-rounded society. In fact, it seems to try to get away from those disciplines that leave true treasures behind for future generations to enjoy. Instead, it focuses on creating a fast-paced world of a wealth-and-power hungry neurotic nation that is incapable of reaching deep into its essence and, for this reason, ends up living on an ever increasing amount of anti-depressants. Maybe, it’s time to make a change.
M. J. Mandoki