Rubio and Bush ought to ponder this: Philosophers out earn welders

Philosophy and psychology have taken a bit of a drubbing lately in political circles where the majors have been held out as dead ends.

“Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working [at] a Chick-fil-A,” said Jeb Bush at a recent event.

While psychology majors flooded social media to rebut Bush’s comment, little was heard from the philosophers.

Until now.

It was worth the wait. Here is a great response from Eddy Nahmias, a professor in the Philosophy Department and the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University.

By Eddy Nahmias

At the last Republican debate, Marco Rubio said, “I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education.” A few weeks earlier, Jeb Bush said, “We have huge shortages of electricians, welders, plumbers, information technologists, teachers.” I agree with them that it’s essential we have enough people to keep our infrastructure from falling apart, to build and maintain the highways and information superhighways that move our economy, to make our homes and our food, and of course, to teach our children. Ideally, welders, farmers, sanitation workers, plumbers, cooks, and other hard-working Americans would also be able to make at least a “living wage” and fulfill the American dream that Rubio, the son of a maid and a bartender, embodies.

Should Plato have chosen a more practical career like sheep herding?

Should the philosopher Plato have chosen a more practical career like sheep herding?

But Rubio tried to drive home his point by adding, “We need more welders and less philosophers. Welders make more money than philosophers.” Bush quipped, “Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working [at] a Chick-fil-A.”

Well now, them’s fightin’ words! I’m a philosophy professor. And one of my duties is to advise the philosophy majors at Georgia State University, which includes giving them information about the value of the major, information they can use to answer the doubts of their parents, and apparently, some politicians. Most of this information also applies to other humanities and social science majors, including the majors of almost every presidential candidate: Rubio and seven others majored in political science, Bush in Latin American studies, Carly Fiorino in philosophy.

First of all, Rubio is mistaken. According to data reported by the Washington Post, mid-career welders make $44,000, while mid-career philosophy majors make more than $80,000. Philosophy graduates, on average, double their salaries over 10 years, which is (along with math) a higher rate of increase than any other major. I’d like to thank Rubio for doing so much to squash the myth that philosophy is impractical: his off-the-cuff comment has been rebuffed by numerous fact-checkers from the conservative Weekly Standard and to the once-pretend-conservative Stephen Colbert (who studied philosophy in college).

More importantly, Rubio, Bush, and too many others are mistaken about two assumptions underlying their views: that vocational education must compete with “traditional” college education and that the value of a major is measured primarily in terms of the salary it garners.

Vocational training need not compete with education in the arts, humanities, and sciences. There are only 7,500 philosophy graduates per year in the U.S. We can promote welding without denigrating, or downsizing, philosophy. Neither should we denigrate welders, electricians, farmers, mechanics and others who work with their hands by suggesting that they do not, or should not, also work with their minds. All of our citizens can benefit from the skills philosophy emphasizes: critical thinking, ethical theory, and careful analysis of arguments, including the bad ones offered by politicians of every persuasion.

We should avoid the “tracking” mentality in both secondary and post-secondary education that suggests only the “chosen few” get to indulge in “useless” literature, art, or philosophy, and conversely suggests that there is something second-class about working with one’s hands. Other nations, such as Germany, have developed a dual education system where students can take courses that allow them to consider history, human nature, freedom, and global conflicts, while also taking courses to train in a technical job while serving as apprentices in relevant businesses.

We know what welders, construction workers, and farmers make, we need what they make, and they deserve our respect for making it. But we also need what education in the humanities and sciences makes: informed, questioning citizens who seek value in more than money alone.

What do philosophers make? Ideas and arguments. And ideas and arguments are what drive human history, for better or worse. ISIS is driven by bad ideas and inane arguments. In addition to wiping out those driven to violence by these ideas, we must wipe out the bad ideas themselves and replace them with better ones. Philosophers throughout history have given us some very good ideas: that women are equal to men (e.g., Plato and J.S. Mill), that rational self-interest and competition, moderated by moral sentiments, lead to economic prosperity (e.g., Adam Smith), that people must consent to medical treatment (ethicists in 1970s), and that unjust laws should be resisted nonviolently (e.g., David Thoreau and Martin Luther King). Philosophers are now analyzing the ethical problems raised, for instance, by technological advances in artificial intelligence, robotic warfare, and neuroscientific interventions. Indeed, philosophy assembled the ideas, questions, and methods that formed the foundation on which most of the other humanities and sciences were erected.

Democracy, too, is an excellent idea, constructed by a bunch of philosophers in Greece and erected to its most flourishing form by the philosophical founders of the United States. But our democracy demands new ideas and recurring arguments — at least every election cycle — to shape its form and map its future, arguments that should be debated by informed, philosophical citizens, whether they are politicians, farmers, teachers, truck drivers, lawyers, or welders.

 

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30 comments
northernneighbor
northernneighbor

Studies probably leave out the welders who go into supervision and management, or better yet start their own companies.  If you stay a welder, you will make a good living, but most progress beyond simply being welders.

0.270367922881
0.270367922881


What people don't understand is that philosophy majors, particularly from good schools, are highly sought after due to their training in methods of thinking including logic by a variety businesses for 6 figure jobs. Philosophy majors rank highest on GRE scores for humanities majors and are close to the top scorers for the natural science section which is physics majors.


This is similar to physics PhDs being hired by hedge funds/investment banks, especially prior to the most recent crash, as they were well equipped to develop mathematical models for assessing stock trends. They were paid MUCH more than a university professor or in other industries raising the mean salary in these salary surveys of what someone with X degree which do not look at what the survey takers are actually employed doing. This is why looking at the median salary (or salary distribution which is usually not provided) in such surveys is key to understanding the data.


As with many things in life, it is better to have a modicum of knowledge before speaking on a subject. Facts can get in the way of your message.



MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Albert Einstein:


"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift.  The rational mind is a faithful servant.

We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

"I see a pattern, but my imagination cannot picture the maker of that pattern.  I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker.  The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?"


"Logic will get you from A to B.

 Imagination will take you everywhere."


"The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical.  It is the sower of all true science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.  To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


It is my belief that both the welder and the philosopher are capable of pondering and exploring these same concepts, enunciated so well by Albert Einstein.  We do all a disservice if we do not expose all students to these thoughts, as educators of our young.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@MaryElizabethSings 

Very inspiring, but your post has little to do with what goes on in a philosophy classroom which is the blog-topic here.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@OriginalProf 

Perhaps, like Einstein, we should attempt not to assign our thoughts into neat, little, self-contained boxes of our own labels, which will limit the human intellect and the human experience. 

Sometimes risk, even of thought, is more to be sought than safety, as Thomas Jefferson well knew. Thomas Jefferson: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”


Einstein: "A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive."


"I want to know all God's thoughts; all the rest are just details."

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

A great many people don't seem to understand what a Philosophy major entails. It does not mean that the student sits around and speculates about the nature of the universe, or tries to reach some transcendent and fuzzy religious brotherhood. Primarily, it involves the study of logic and the process of reasoning, and the various ways in which great thinkers have developed systems of knowledge (epistemology). It's a difficult major because it involves abstract thinking. There are branches, such as religious philosophy, social philosophy, ethics, aesthetics or the principles of art, and others. 


Many fields find the Philosophy major to be an excellent fit because of its demand for rigorous logical thinking: Law, Information Technology, the Health fields, Government (state, local and federal), and Business.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@OriginalProf

"Primarily, it involves the study of logic and the process of reasoning, and the various ways in which great thinkers have developed systems of knowledge (epistemology)."


The late great thinker Dr. W. Edwards Deming described it as (paraphrasing) "having a theory of knowledge" along with ...

2) "having some understanding of psychology" and

3) "having some appreciation for what a system is" and

4) "having some understanding of variation."


These four things encapsulate this story...

https://www.deming.org/content/if-japan-canwhy-cant-we

oh Pleese
oh Pleese

Very nicely written and reasoned defense of the so-called "impractical" degrees.  It will not convince many conservative politicians  though as it seems as though money and the power it brings is what they value.  Conservatives don't understand deep thinking because they have Fox News to tell them what to believe.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Let me back up and say that to an employer, ANY college degree is better than a high school degree; it means you actually are able to read and write.  Our company will not allow just a high school graduate to move into a management role; you must have a college degree.  A degree in liberal arts does not automatically consign you to a bad career; it all depends on what you do with your degree.   

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

“Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working [at] a Chick-fil-A,” 

Is this an insight into the repubs policy on addressing mental illness?

Studying other subjects out of your field or area of comfort enables a person to become a broader thinker....and under-stander. My Mom used to say (she had a 6th grade education and was a very successful mother and Realtor) " The more you know, the more you don't know!"

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

". . .Rubio tried to drive home his point by adding, 'We need more welders and less philosophers. Welders make more money than philosophers.' ” 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We need more politicians who think beyond the dichotomy of "winners and losers" as in a football game (based on money, especially).  Sad.  This kind of thinking was not in the DNA of America's Founding Fathers.

class80olddog
class80olddog

According to one school (University of Maryland) - the largest percentage of Philosophy majors went on to get law degrees.  You cannot really include their salaries in the mix since they did not graduate with JUST a Philosophy degree.  That probably skews the numbers tremendously.  The second highest percentage was in "business", which included piano technician and professional football player.  Third was government jobs.  What is the average salary of a person who graduates with JUST a philosophy B.A.?

Q1225
Q1225

@class80olddog From Payscale, where the salary data cited comes from: "Only employees who possess a Bachelor's degree and no higher degree are included. Those Bachelors graduates who continue their education and earn a Master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree are not included." Reading is FUNdamental!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Q1225 @class80olddog "Using data from the Web site PayScale, we can look at the introductory and median incomes of both professions." This quote from the Washington Post article.  Trouble is: we don't want data from the PROFESSION, we want data about ALL Philosophy B.A. graduates - how much do THEY make.  The article goes on to say that there are a lot more welding jobs than philosophy jobs, so if you can't get a job, the degree does not do you much good.  If a philosophy major graduates, but is unemployed then their salary should be listed as $0 (how do they live - welfare?) . 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Q1225 Your reference also states that for the mid-career salaries (where the big difference is), that they only used bachelor graduates who had been in their chosen career at least 10 years.  So that would leave out anyone who works 5 years in Chik-fil-a, and five years as a piano technician.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

But that is true for most of the liberal arts majors in which the graduates did not simply find employment as paraprofessionals in the field or as teachers---majors such as English, Biology, Political Science, History, Sociology, Psychology, the Arts. They are known as "pre-professional majors." And nowadays the B.A. or B.S. is insufficient for most professions.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

@Lee_CPA2 A Whole New Mind was published years ago, stating that companies are looking for people who can "do the math" AND "think outside the box".

Philosophy major/mathematics minor works the same way. 

Q1225
Q1225

@Lee_CPA2 $84K is 15-40% more (depending on the source) than the median CPA salary.  Just sayin'...

Travelfish
Travelfish

"Philosophers" out-earn welders for the same reason rock stars do: only a small number of philosophers are employed as such, almost exclusively as relatively highly paid professors.

The rest are waiting tables, and are thus in a different category.

CSpinks
CSpinks

In the metro Augusta area in which The Southern Company's massive Plant Vogtle nuclear operation is being doubled in size, welders out-earn philosophers by a considerable margin.


As a matter of fact, any welders reading these comments should contact Paul Bowers, CEO of Georgia Power, immediately. He'll put you on to a job making about $80K per annum.


And might I suggest that any philosophy majors making less than $80K per year might also want to contact Mr. Bowers. He's got good jobs and is always looking for folks who can read, write and think well enough to pass the Georgia Power employment screening test.

Starik
Starik

We'd probably get a better Republican Presidential candidate by randomly selecting a college graduate with some practical experience at something, anything useful except medicine and engineering.

1Robert
1Robert

@Starik We see what happens when we elect a president with no practical experience, we get someone like Obama.  

Starik
Starik

@1Robert @Starik That's true. We should be more careful.  Look at the experience level of George HW Bush and George W Bush.  Success and failure.