If You’re so Smart Why Ain’t You Rich?: Higher education and innovation

The other day, career politician and Republican nominee long shot Marco Rubio said that the world needed more welders, less philosophers.” Plato was smart and all but he probably should’ve shut up and started welding. I mean,yeah, the Socratic method is one of the most important and widely used analytical methods we have, but fuck that, more soldering. And why stop there? Fuck music. John Coltrane should’ve put down his saxophone and put dry wall. And what do we need doctors for? Only pussy liberals need medicine. Real men weld their joints together.

In case you’re an idiot, I’m being facetious. However, there’s a very simplistic “trades vs. degrees” debate that keeps raising its head that I wish would just go away.


People always ask me “What’s the point of studying English or philosophy? There’s no jobs there.” Obviously no there isn’t. There’s no jobs for just about any Bachelor’s anymore. Most students use these degrees as a starting point for other things, like education, medicine, or law. Or, if you’re like me, become a struggling writer.

Of course, not many people understand that. When I was doing my undergrad, I knew so many students floating through their Arts degrees. It boggled my mind. If you’re not passionate and willing to work hard, then why are you here? You’re not going to get the marks you need to get into grad or professional schools. To these people, I would say, get a trade. Obviously you just want a job and make money. In today’s society, income from labour is dropping at an alarming rate. Skilled labour is an excellent way to make a good living, so long as you’re willing to go where the work is.

Philosoraptor-What-If-4 So where does that leave the Arts degrees?

In more abstract terms, philosophy, or any arts degree, improves critical thinking, something the world could really use right now. Philosophy in and of itself can only really lead you into academia, or something very similar. However, philosophy can be paired very successfully with business or economics. George Soros and Peter Thiel were philosophy majors. Shit, Alex Trebek has a philosophy degree!

The point I really want to make is that studying philosophy, or anything that makes your mind sharper, can help foster innovation. It’s called sharpening the saw. Henry Ford said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would’ve said “a faster horse.” Being able to see opportunities that others can’t is the key to success in not just business, but life.

Consider also what Steve Jobs said during his Stanford commencement speech. He explained that when he dropped out of college, he audited a course on calligraphy for no other reason than out of curiosity. Later on, when he was designing the word processing software for the Mac, he drew on his knowledge of calligraphy to give the personal computer all kinds of different fonts, which played a big role in making it a success.

Jobs’s larger point is that you don’t know how the dots will align. The idea is to follow wherever your intuition or curiosity will take you. You have to have faith in yourself that it will eventually pay off.

philosoraptor_1_by_animebro-d68flj2Rubio’s “welders vs philosophers” is a false dichotomy. Evaluating a degree based on the pay check it eventually leads to is misleadingly reductive. The best answer I would say is why not both. Why can’t a welder also study philosophy? I would also say you should never trust career advice from a politician like Marco Rubio.

More specifically, I would say follow your passion and curiosity because it will reward not just yourself but the world at large. I know that’s cheesy but as I get older I see that it’s really true. When I think about all the challenges facing the world and all the information that’s readily available, I realize what we all really need is innovation, which is just waiting to be tapped.

~ by braddunne on November 15, 2015.

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