One may say they have "zero pity for highly educated people who do not understand the basics of supply and demand in their chosen job market" - and bear in mind that I'm talking here about people trained in the sciences, and not humanities which is oft smirked at for its dearth of job prospects. But the thing is, we as people get to decide what failure means. We don't need to let one bad choice prove ruinously disastrous.
As jseliger's link points out, I, as a 21 year old who outside of a few summer jobs had never been outside of the academic environment, really did not understand the job market and options available to me, so made my decision on rather limited information. I hadn't even realized, for example, that graduate schools paid TA salaries. I thought I would have to apply for scholarships like I did for my undergraduate education.
It worked out well for me, but it also felt like a lot of chance was involved. Lady Luck could easily given a worse roll. I do not see my success as purely my own achievement. I do not want my failures to be my own cross to bear, and nor would I wish that on others.
Yes, I believe in funding a strong social safety net.
1) Gloating over your own skills being in demand can be short-sighted. How many of the people here were thinking, "wow, I'm really passionate about medieval history, but I'll go into software development because that's where the big bucks are?" I'd hazard to say none: people choose to do what they enjoy, not what will make them money. Just because your passion happened to line up with today's market discipline doesn't mean that anyone whose passions aren't in that same direction are fools. (And do you really want a bunch of people who have no innate skills in programming flocking to IT and CS in the hopes of cashing out?)
2) That said, I'm not massively sympathetic toward her. Lots of people don't have the ability to easily cease living off food stamps: she could find a job to catapult her into the middle class in a matter of months. It's a choice on her end. Though, it's not even clear that it's a poor choice, since she gets to do what she loves and has enough money plus entitlements for food, shelter, and medical care.
3) But to tease out some points even further... most people are more interested in pissing on her choices than in figuring out how they can use her situation to better the world. Wait, (ostensibly) great teachers in obscure topics are out there in abundance working only a couple hours a week? Shouldn't we be spending more time wondering "Is there an opportunity here?" than wondering if her choices make her education worthless or if she deserves our pity or not?
On what basis is this assumption made? I'm genuinely curious because I think it reflects the attitude of many in certain segments in our society. The idea that poverty is a choice, and if they wanted to they could just choose their way out of it just like that.
Keep in mind the context of the present age we're living in - unemployment, across almost all sectors, is still extremely high. Are all these people, especially the educated segments, just choosing to live off public assistance? It's pretty clear, and this was the whole point of the article, that having an education isn't an IWIN button for middle class standard of living anymore, and yet society keeps selling that idea to the younger generation.
> That said, I'm not massively sympathetic toward her.
It's dangerously easy to judge people who aren't doing as well as oneself.
There is of course no way to prove she has alternatives. But the article does not suggest she looked.
It's quite easy to judge most poor people in America, since most of them do choose to live off public assistance. Most poor people choose not to work, and if they do work, choose not to work full time. Bruninga-Matteau seems to fall into the latter camp.
(In contrast, Stegall does seem rather more sympathetic, since he did attempt to find non-academic work.)
I was all set to double major in mathematic when I got married. When my wife and I had our first kid I decided to finish up a Computer Engineering degree and enter the workforce rather than take an extra year to finish the math major.
Sometimes you have to find something you enjoy enough. I absolutely enjoy programming, but it still doesn't come close to how fascinating I find number theory.
Everyone has options, and they make (or should make) their choices fully aware of the likely outcomes.
Though, maybe not. I could totally see someone being really interested in the structures of everyday life of medieval peasantry. Seems worthless, but you could totally parlay that into a profitable business doing furniture making or even green/natural/traditional housing.
The kind of money that is available in finance to someone with an advanced degree in math or physics is nothing short of astounding, with CS a distant second. Of course, there are all kinds of ethical compromises one must make for that.
so this supply-demand thingy - its just something that happens to accurately describe the current state of the world, or more particularly the usa, especially in a bubble where it is infinitely more preferable to drop out of college and pursue ruby on rails than stick it out for a lousy diploma with your name on it. but if an athlete wanting to compete in the olympics mistakenly walked into a circus and started jumping through hoops, the crowd would throw coin at him. he can then collect that coin & settle down, get married, raise a family, get a drivers license, buy an automobile, pay municipal state and federal taxes & so on. but that just means he's become a clown, not an athlete. it is unfortunate that athletics is non sexy and training to be one involves grueling practice for years and years in isolation with no attention, no fame, no coin. but to dodge that work and passion because of what society chooses to value at a particular point in time is quite defeatist. none of what we do in cs today would have been considered useful in the 20s and 30s. church and turing would have clearly been better off working in the railroads or digging an oil well. yet they did what they did, and here we are...
so, respect. you never know what the future holds for medieval history or english literature. i spent 3 semesters as a film major before i dropped out, and i must say it was a royal blast. repeatedly watching blondes strip and run towards the beach in their red bikinis while their breasts bobbed up and down, and the professor of film studies pausing the remote at the critical instant when a tad bit of cleavage was visible and saying "hey, this is why baywatch was a hit" and all of us students scribbling down "must place camera on sand level and tile up to show cleavage in beach shots" - i mean, nothing beats that. no amount of fancy research in STEM will match the pure adrenaline that passes for film studies. so there's a reason people in their youth pursue these non-lucrative fields, so lets not rain on their parade.
And that's the point. Once we make a choice, we must accept the consequences. The article indicates there was some sort of agreement between life and students that says "If you study hard and get an advanced degree you won't have financial troubles." Since that wasn't the case, the world seems unfair. There is no such agreement. I'm not raining on the parade of students studying things that interest them. I feel strongly that their studies are beneficial and they become better people and better members of society because of them. But they were never promised financial success and not having it is not a breach of contract in any way shape or form. That's why this article rubs this crowd the wrong way.
The smarter a person is, the more likely they suffer from the myopic perspective that things will be different for themselves.
In particular, young people make all sorts of uninformed choices based on the biases of people around them. For instance, youths are exposed to 8 hours of indoctrination that school and the life of the academic represents the highest ideal. But look who's telling them?
The same goes for startup communities which glorifies sleeping on the couch. Ideals and realities are often two different things.
The first thing I would do is ditch programming as a means of producing a living, and only do it as a hobby, and immediately reorganize my life to transition to a field that pays what programmer salaries are now.
Try going to one of the top ten law programs, taking out an enormous amount of debt, dealing with 3 years of opportunity cost etc., in what's supposed to be a professional program that tracks you onto finding good paying work, and then finding out no one wants your professional services.
Not whining ... I made my bed, it's made of student loan bills, I've got to sleep in it. But you can be damn well sure that I shout from the rooftops about the very dubious investment proposition that even "elite" educational programs offer these days...
In fact, it is the systematic overfunding of higher education that has led this person to getting a degree that is worthless.
Plus her own poor choices, of course.
I'm willing to gamble that at least one person indoctrinated her with 'follow your dreams, and the money will come'.
That entitlement is a huge question. Why should they be entitled to higher paying jobs? Because they worked hard to get there? I used to work 12 hour days as a construction worker making $10/hour. I work half as hard as a programmer as I did as a construction worker, yet I earn 8 times as much. In the 4 years of school it took to get here, I can't even pretend that I worked harder than my former colleagues did. Clearly how hard we work isn't the only factor in our wages.
So what is this entitlement based on? I'm not asking what wages should be based on. We almost all agree that you should be paid according to the value you add. My question is why it is (or why is it supposed to be) surprising that someone with a PhD in medieval studies can't find work. What is the assumption by the general public based on?
I attribute it to, on the reporter's part, two parts laziness to one part subconscious racism.
Of course this has never been true, and part of the point of the article was that it's even less true today. Perception is very important in how people view these issues. When people see someone they can relate to, someone that looks like them, or their sibling, parent, next door neighbor, etc., it becomes a lot harder to sit in judgment and be morally dismissive of their circumstances.
I've lived in various parts of middle America, Tennessee, South Dakota, Montana, and many of these people feel these programs should be abolished exactly because of this misperception. Of course when you point out that their grandma, or auntie or cousin is on Medicare, food stamps, etc., their immediate response is - "Well I'm a hard working, Christian American, I deserve these things. It's those OTHER people who are the problem."
I suspect that the reporter's channeling the media environment as "what most people believe", which would make the subjects' whiteness somewhat novel.
And you know what? You're right. I'm in English Lit grad school, and the number one thing I tell other people who are contemplating it is not to go. Then I tell them to read Louis Menand's The Marketplace of Ideas and Thomas Benton's articles: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Big-Lie-About-the-Life-of/6... .
If you took a strict Econ 101 view of this, there would be no medieval studies professors in the whole country.
I don't believe that. (note that I am the guy who originally made the "zero pity" comment) Knowing how society developed from medieval times into the Renaissance is very valuable, especially from the point of view of someone who studies history of technology, markets, and means of production.
Within that context, there is most definitely demand for professors of medieval studies.
The conversation really is about how there isn't enough demand for dozens of medieval studies experts every year. Perhaps there would be demand for a dozen every five years or so.
Your contention that we're producing a couple too many, ok, I can buy that. But the people in the article have jobs -- and it doesn't seem to stand that the depts in question would pay more for medieval history experts if there was a smaller pool of talent.
The bottom line is that if the price is low there is high supply relative to low demand. Econ 101 factors are always "at play". While a more advanced econ class may explain more complex pricing concepts, it really isn't necessarily here since this basically a classic econ 101 example.
What is even more interesting is that every time someone graduates with a history PhD they are in a position where they either go in to the field where their low paid professors already work or go to a different job. The ones that don't want food stamps take the second choice.
Those people who decide to sacrifice for the first 3 or 4 years out of the program and take jobs to get experience in a new field which can yield higher pay later will make more than those that stay in low demand history PhD positions in academia.
The full-time vs. adjunct debate has nothing to do with whether college is over- or under-supplied. It's a problem with how colleges supply whatever it is that they supply.
I am talking about professors since that is what the article is about and completely not worrying about colleges since that is off topic.
The entire point of the article is that a person who decides to get a PhD in history should be paid because they went to school for 4 years. To me, that concept is ridiculous and people don't get to be paid a lot for what they want to do in the absence of basic economic theory.
Too many professors, not enough demand = low pay. It sucks that person made that choice, but there are plenty of secretarial jobs which pay above poverty level which someone with a PhD in history could get.
The problem is that university administrations have tried to transform their institutions into profit-making businesses, and have insisted on cutting corners. They are hell-bent on the notion of teaching an order of magnitude more students without hiring any more tenure-track professors.
Study what you love, sure, but don't expect that it will lead you to financial success.
It's also a silly excuse for anyone in their 2nd year who ever spoke to a 5-6th year.
If you don't care, then you don't care. And there's probably nothing that can be said in this thread that will change your position on the matter.
I somehow got on their mailing list during grad school, and I've received regular updates about the supposed oppression of the worlds PhD's and graduate students ever since.
Software is a lucrative career path, but a college education from most universities is almost worthless on its face. Degree holders with a dim economic outlook need to consider the value in supplementing their education with a skill set that allows them to capitalize on their specialized knowledge.
Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the/44846
An important part of the investigation was Elisabetta Gnignera, a costume historian and expert in renaissance hairdos, identifying the bound ponytail of the girl in the portrait as being a style that only ever became prominent in Milan, and only for a few years--the same years when da Vinci served the Milan ruling family as artist and engineer.
I thought it was cool that there are people who are experts in renaissance hairdos--and that their knowledge can actually be put to practical use.
(There is much more than the hairdo evidence to tie the painting to da Vinci. It's worth watching the Nova episode if they show it again. The combination of historical research and modern scientific analysis was quite intriguing).
Say no more.
She's just lucky she had a Republican governor to blame for her economic situation.
"Some are struggling to pay back student loans and cover basic living expenses as they submit scores of applications for a limited pool of full-time academic positions."
That's the real problem right there. If she went into higher education expecting to make a comfortable living from it, she should've checked her prospects first. I can't imagine there would be very many opportunities for a medieval history doctorate.