STM Philosophy: Margaret Wente & University Degrees

“A university degree is no longer an automatic ticket to a decent job and a pleasant living.”

This is a quote from Globe and Mail columnist’s Margaret Wente’s piece  Quebec’s university students are in for a shock, written during a time when massive student protests were rocking Quebec society. It’s been months since I read this column, so it’s a bit funny that I recalled it this afternoon.

Today, on the long commute from downtown Montreal to lovely Dollard-des-Ormeaux, I took out a well-loved book to distract myself from my cold fingers: Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood.”

After a mere fifteen pages, I read a passage that piqued my interest:

“Yup. When I graduate, I’m going to work for the Geographical Survey Institute and make muh-muh-maps.”

“I was impressed anew by the variety of dreams and goals that life could offer….The thought struck me that society needed a few people – just a few – who were interested in and even passionate about map-making.”

After reading Murakami’s words, Wente’s column immediately came to mind. Juxtapose the previous passage with a quote from Wente:

(speaking about the student protesters) “They’re the sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills. The world will not be kind to them. They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.”

This line of thinking seems so narrow-minded- calling whole disciplines worthless. We need all kinds of people for our society to function. I also believe  that these so-called “soft subjects” are important for our progression into a more tolerable, equal society.

It has often been said that having culture distinguishes humans from animals. I think this is completely accurate. Fields such as medicine or engineering address our basic needs. Yet, humans also need culture and social relationships in order to thrive.

I don’t think a university degree should just be viewed as a means to an end- getting a job. However, it becomes complicated when looking at the current tough economic situation.  Some people might not have the luxury to spend time studying subjects that don’t have a clear-cut path to a steady career.

Which is why I have ended up taking a post-graduate degree in Public Relations at Humber College- I wanted to improve my hard skills for the workplace.

This first blog post has been rather introspective. This comes during a break after a short but hectic (and fun!) few months. Also after a crazy period doing something completely different and beginning to live in a new city. I need to think a lot about where I am headed after I graduate in April.

This blog should help with this journey- it will function as an outlet to practice my developing writing skills and also to vent my opinions on current events.

Leave a comment to start a conversation!

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4 thoughts on “STM Philosophy: Margaret Wente & University Degrees

  1. Such a timely post Bev. It’s the time of year we all reflect on the past 12 months and what the new year is to bring. Having been schooled with some “hard skills” I can surely say they’re not nearly enough to get me where I want to be. I think Margaret Wente may be off base with this one (what’s new?), but I think it does point out a value system that may be broken. Why can’t our society value writers, artists and comedians in the same way as doctors, scientists and engineers? They say this is the millennium of stress and surely we’re all better off with those “soft professions” to keep us balanced.

    Love the blog :)

    • Agreed, what we need is balance in all areas of life. Most of what we call the Arts have been whittled down or removed from our primary schools so how can these professions be appreciated and valued? There is definitely a break in our value system.

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