Thursday, September 6, 2007

No More Edumacation

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
-Paulie from Sapranos

How ironic... school has kept me away from the blogosphere for a few weeks, yet an article about knowing when to leave school brings me back.

I read this article in Maxim magazine about how we use grad school as a crutch before entering the real world. It blasts folks for going to school and getting advanced degrees in fields that will not significantly increase their incomes in the long run.

Is that fair? Sure... going to grad school right after college is a way for many who are not sure about what they want to do with their lives to figure it all out, but does that mean they should be blasted for valuing education?

Here's the article. I'm actually copying it directly from the magazine. That's right folks---no copying and pasting. It's the least I could do.


You know who you are. You're the twenty- and thirty-somethings who refuse to grow up and get a job. You're the research assistants, TAs, philosophy master's candidates, and other lifelong academics who hide behind syllabi and aged book-slinging zombies mindlessly shuffling through the ivy-strewn graveyards of your glory days. Or worse yet, you're the guy who flunked real life and decided to go back to school. To all you professional Peter Pans out there: We're calling your bullshit. you're officially on notice.

Exceptions to the Rule

First, let's be clear that the venom being spewed here today isn't directed at everyone over the age of 21 who's currently in school. We're not going to say it's a wast of time and money to study to become a doctor; that would be preposterous. Emergency rooms will always be understaffed, and network television will always need young medical professionals around whom to base prime-time dramas. Plus, census figures show that advanced degrees in medicine, engineering, computers, law, and business translate into higher earnings.

That's not to say those last two haven't earned our scorn. What's law school after all but the great American fallback? You want to know why a million bad jokes start with there being too many lawyers in the world? Because when a college senior puddings his pants at the prospect of entering the real world, law school is an easy out--a three-year stay of execution from commitment, responsibility, and accountability. And don't give us that "I love the law" shit. If you loved the law, that wouldn't be a stack of dog-eared Maxim magazines next to your toilet; it'd be Sam Waterston's autobiography teetering on a pile of John Grisham paperbacks.

Then there's the MBA--a horseshit degree if there ever was one, invented by businessmen solely interested in surrounding themselves with "their kind," i.e., those privileged enough to piss away 30 large per year learning Excel and PowerPoint. The only reason anyone would need an MBA is because more and more business jobs are requiring them, which is today's equivalent of "No Irish Need Apply." Only this time it's economic discrimination: Such a requirement has less to do with finding the most qualified go-getter for the job and more with making sure the new hire won't look out of place lipping cigars, quaffing brandy, and swapping Skull and Bones stories with the rest of the gang.

But at least a law degree or MBA can make you rich. The shit we're kicking up today is aimed squarely at the sad lot who stretch a higher education beyond four years in order to study something like dance, poetry, art, or the most worthless of pursuits: English.

Money for Nothing

"You really have to look at the math when you're doing this," says Liz Pullman Weston, author of Deal With Your Debt. "What is the payoff going to be down the road? On average, for liberal arts and social sciences, it doesn't pay off to get that master's--especially when you have to borrow money to get it." To reach this conclusion, Weston broke out the abacus and examined the average salaries for specific degrees according to U.S. Census Bureau records. Using the same kind of "present value" calculations that lotteries perform when a toothless hillbilly opts to take the money and run instead of in annual installments, she came up with lump-sum dollar amounts that represent what different degrees are worth in future earnings. On average, a master's in business or engineering is worth in excess of 300 grand more than a bachelor's in either field.

For liberal arts and social sciences, however, a master's is actually worth less than a bachelor's when you take into account what you spend to get it. "The Census Bureau's figures show that someone with a liberal arts master's degree earned just $5 a month more than someone with a bachelor's in the same field," Weston said. "Getting the degree costs you more than you will earn back with it." Sucker.

But it's not just the waste of money that boils our balls. It's that suddenly it's OK for people to tread water in a pool of perpetual adolescence. When did avoiding adulthood become a career ambition?


I'll finish posting the second half tomorrow if you all are interested.


Gene said...

I mean, I think it's a bit sad that someone would put this much energy into squashing someone else's career/life path, but that's another post ....

I'm definitely a fan of grad school if you need it to do what you want to do, but this article is pretty true.

This is honestly what Kanye was talking about on the first album that most people missed. Degrees for degree's sake is pointless and ironically unproductive.

Best line I've heard all week:
"What's law school after all but the great American fallback?"

Sooooo very true that it's sad.

But one thing Weston failed to consider is the non-quantitative benefits of graduate school. It's not always about money.

And I'm much more interested in discussing WHY folks are scared to go out into the real world. Until that's addressed/fixed, you'll have more people choosing to be in debt and broke at 30 than the opposite.

K.B. said...

I didn't read the article... But, I read your comments at the beginning...

I've heard people say before "If that doesn't work out, I'll probably just go to law school."

Like, when did law school become a fallback plan? Who has money (AND time) to go to law school for fun? I guess that's just socio-economic status I know nothing about.

Anonymous said...

Paulie from the Sopronos ? You mean Sil from the Sopranos !