Across the country, college is back in full swing. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of students with their heads stuck in books or trying to stay awake in lecture halls.
Millions and millions of dollars are spent on tuition. One thing that most of us don’t think about — why? What’s the purpose of college?
For Governor Dennis Daugaard, college is for students to get a good job. The governor wants “students to think seriously about the economic value of their desired career path,” according to an Argus Leader article. Students should think more about the economic potential of their degree rather than become worldlier.
“God bless philosophers. And if people want to educate themselves to become more worldly… that’s great. …But they shouldn’t confuse that with something the economy will have in demand,” Daugaard said.
Well, as a philosophy major, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with the governor.
While economic potential is important, we all have to pay our bills. College is meant for something more — intellectual and personal maturity. I think we can all agree that there’s more to life than just making money.
While I personally enjoy money (a lot), I also enjoy intellectually-stimulating projects, thinking about big ideas and coming up with creative ways to solve larger-than-life problems. While engineering certainly is a fantastic career path, it won’t educate people when it comes to political or cultural questions, questions we all have to deal with at some point or another in our lives.
In fact, I’d say engineers would have an interesting answer to these questions if they knew more about them.
If one is concerned about job prospects, allow me to give some of my personal experiences. While working for a U.S. senator in Washington D.C., a deputy chief of staff told me that one of the most important skills for a staffer to have, one in high demand, is to be able to write.
He went on to say that there are two majors that really teach students how to write: philosophy and English. Some of the best job creators in our modern era are philosophy majors.
Peter Theil, co-founder of PayPal, is one. Carly Fiorina, former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is another. One could not doubt the serious economic impact these innovators have had.
Yet, even with these immense economic benefits, there’s something about studying philosophy (or any other humanities degree) that can’t be quantified.
My life has been greatly impacted by my study. I’m far more content with my life. I love what I’m doing, something which a dollar sign can’t account for. I’ve met incredibly intelligent people, people who have helped me with some big-league questions. My life is more rewarding, more interesting and far more fulfilling. One can only experience this phenomenon: no statistic can explain it.
Philosophy — and humanities degrees in general — do have something to offer, and are far from useless. Are some degrees better than others? Of course. Should everyone come to college? Of course not. There are plenty of ways to lead fulfilling lives, many of which require no degree.
It’s important to remember that college isn’t meant to be job training — it’s meant to be a personal and intellectual expanding experience. There’s a dimension to education that goes beyond how many dollars it brings in.
Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, philosophy majors make more money, on average, than business marketing majors. In fact, philosophy graduates make the most money of any humanities degree over the course of their career. So yes, thank God for philosophers.
Correction: Carly Fiorina’s title at Hewlett-Packard has been updated.