In last night’s Republican primary debate, Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized U.S. higher education for being “outdated.” It is too expensive, he said, and too hard to access. Additionally, “it doesn’t teach 21st century skills.” Like welding.
I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.
I guess Senator Rubio thinks it is time to stigmatize philosophy. Bad move, Senator.
Do welders make more money than philosophers? As it turns out, on average, no. Inside Higher Ed reports that “the median annual income for postsecondary philosophy and religion instructors is $63,630, while the median for welders and related fields is $37,420.” These figures are now all over the internet. It may be that Rubio just inadvertently boosted the public image of studying philosophy.
Vox has a helpful infographic with related figures:
American Philosophical Association Executive Director Amy Ferrer is quoted in IHE saying:
Rubio’s refrain about the value of philosophy is unfortunate — and misinformed. Philosophy teaches many of the skills most valued in today’s economy: critical thinking, analysis, effective written and verbal communication, problem solving, and more. And philosophy majors’ success is borne out in both data — which show that philosophy majors consistently outperform nearly all other majors on graduate entrance exams such as the GRE and LSAT, and that philosophy ties with mathematics for the highest percentage increase from starting to midcareer salary.
Do we need more welders and less philosophers? This is less clear. Are things going unwelded that should be welded? Those in the know, please comment. As for whether we need fewer philosophers—the quality of the reasoning in political debates suggests that perhaps that more are needed.
Rubio did not comment on whether we need more or less politicians.
Here’s the clip:
Rubio was not the only candidate to mention philosophers in the debate. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said the Federal Reserve system is run by a “series of philosopher kings.” Apparently this is not a good thing. It should be run instead, of course, by a series of welders.
And Ohio governor John Kasich said that “philosophy does not work when you run something.” I believe by “something” he meant “a political campaign.” Too true, Governor.
Philosophers: the new hot political topic.
(image: detail of “Welder at Night” by Einballim Wasser)
Don’t forget the Value of Philosophy pages.
UPDATE: from Ethicist for Hire:
UPDATE 2: Some commentary elsewhere:
- Avery Kolers (Louisville) at Salon: Don’t suppose that “social worth of a profession tracks the market price it commands in the current economy.”
- Samir Chopra (CUNY) at SamirChopra.com: “Many years ago, I taught the inaugural edition of my Philosophy of Welding seminar…”
- John Corvino (Wayne State) at the Detroit Free Press: “Senators make more money than sanitation workers, but we definitely need more sanitation workers than senators.”
- Rory Kraft (York College) at the York Daily Record: “What we need are those who both can do the real tangible things that everyday society uses to function and think critically about what direction we want our future society to move into.”
- Farai Chideya at FiveThirtyEight: “The fortunes of philosophers — or at least philosophy majors — are a mixed bag, ranging from college teaching adjuncts who can barely pay their rent to tech entrepreneurs.”
- Gracy Omstead at The American Conservative: “Ultimately, the best sort of education is one that does not just make you a better worker, but rather, the sort makes you a better, fuller human being.”
- 11 “insanely successful” philosophy majors.
UPDATE 3: Daily Nous is proud to present the first three volumes in its new collection, Philosophers On Welding:
UPDATE: See this subsequent post.