One more Thought About Work: Changing the Inputs

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62 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    If I’m understanding the point of this post is that any attempt to get students into a more practical course of study rather than a more abstract one probably conflicts with the idea of education itself, which seeks to encourage kids if they show aptitude for something.

    This is a very romantic idea of education. Lots of people become teachers because they view it as a stable source of income. Good teachers, the ones that encourage kids to follow their passion, tend to find work in prosperous school districts where the cold, economic realities of a degree in the Classics are blunted. Teachers in less well off districts might very well think its important to steer their charges to more practical careers or just be apathetic about it. As to what will drive kids into more practical careers, the realities of the market tends to do a very good job as illustrated above. The young woman herself decided that law was a safer bet than a grad school in the classics. For all the problems in the legal market, she is probably right. Its not like the life of a professor is any easier and somebody studying the classics has to teach on a university level for the most part.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I am nothing if not a romantic 🙂Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq says:

      My two hundredths of a medium of exchange:

      Let’s break this up a bit (I’ve said a lot of this elsewhere). Why does the Art History major have trouble finding a job? Because Art History is a narrow career field with extremely limited positions available, and always will be no matter how many Art Historians are trained. Also, because AH majors are not always trained by academia on how to leverage their education into other career fields.

      This is why people can not study AH for the subject itself, because it does not translate easily into a job or career. So people are forced to choose between a field of study that is interesting and promotes human intellectual growth, and one that puts food on the table.

      But why the choice? Because the academy has decided that in a large part, the only way to truly learn AH is to be a full time student of AH for X amount of time & Y amount of dollars, where X & Y are not affordable, either singly or together. The academy has also decided that it is not responsible for helping students leverage or fashion* their education to careers outside of the field.

      This is why I think the academy must change. First of all, prices need to come down (if AH offers me no clear path to enhanced income, then I have a hard time justifying high tuition rates if my disposable income is low), and the experience must expand to include more non-traditional students (if getting to campus at 9AM for a class conflicts with my job, guess which wins out; even night classes are a hard sell if the campus is distant, &/or parking is a nightmare).

      *I know this varies from school to school, but sometimes the degree requirements can be a bit inflexible. Or faculty advisers actively discourage taking practical electives. An AH degree with the equivalent of a minor in, say, business, might have a much easier time selling themselves than one with a collection of purely AH electives. There are times I wish my engineering degree let me have more than just 16 credit hours (out of 144) of electives.Report

  2. Will Truman says:

    In my opinion, her professors might have been naive but they were not being wrong-hearted.

    Not at all. The heart has little to do with it. The question was whether or not she had the academic record and Indiana U the academic chops to make such an attempt worthwhile. Apparently not. I only criticize them to the extent that they should have known that what happened was likely to, and even then I don’t criticize their heart. If they were naive, this young woman seems to have paid a pretty steep price for that, though, regardless of their intentions.

    I agree with you that it’s an unfortunate reality that a girl from a family (I assume) without means doesn’t have the same sort of chance as one with means. But a reality it is whether I think it is unfortunate or not. It’s recognition of that reality that leads me to views I have. It’s also a reality that I have difficulty seeing changing and wouldn’t even know how to go about changing, really, or whether changing it would be worth the costs.

    Like you, I am uncomfortable with the STEM-for-all vibes that a lot of people put out. I certainly wouldn’t advocate trade school for all. Or carpentry, or plumbing. In terms of the cultural vibes we send out, though, I would focus on this one point like a parrot: What do you plan to do with this degree? What do you plan to do with this degree? What do you plan to do with this degree?

    Then make the assessment, from there, whether the answer to that question is (a) realistic and (b) desirable. The answer to (b) is entirely up to them, but it’s important that they have an honest assessment of what it entails (an example being that if you want to be a professor, even if you “make it” you might be making it to Mayville, North Dakota).Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

      There is also the potential that a 3.8 at Indiana is not viewed as well as a 3.8 from Harvard or Cornell.

      So we tell students that it makes sense to save on tuition except maybe it doesn’t sometimes.

      Though I was always of the if you get into Harvard you go to Harvard line of thought.Report

    • Re: advice to go to grad school

      I understand and agree that the professors in that situation were doing mostly what they were supposed to do. They knew their fields and knew what types of student have a chance of doing well. That student seemed to them to fit the bill as a likely candidate, and they advised her accordingly. Based on those facts–and I haven’t read the book to know if there’s anything else–I can’t particularly fault them.

      But….a traditional-aged senior in college is only about 22 years old and still might be impressionable. I can imagine a case where a particularly charismatic and assertive professor who believes he knows what’s best for others does more than just “advise” a student to do something. He uses his moral authority to make it appear to the student that it’s wrong to choose anything else. If the professor has been teaching for quite a while, it’s also possible he doesn’t know the job market and prospects as well as a more recently-minted professor would. And a person who’s unsure about his/her decisions or who self-doubts him-/herself a lot, might be influenced to make a choice he/she is not ready for.

      On paper, it’s still just advising. And yes, everyone in the equation is an adult and the student bears ultimate responsibility for her/his choices. Even the “charismatic professor” I describe is just doing his job as he sees it and his actions can probably be defended on those grounds.Report

      • dhex in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “In my opinion, her professors might have been naive but they were not being wrong-hearted.”

        their heart is absolutely meaningless in this case. their good intentions have to be weighed against telling someone this:

        “spend the next 7 – 10 years studying something you will not likely get a job with and will actually penalize yourself in the larger job market once you get it; knowing that you have to compete against folks from the ivies who also cannot get jobs as they once did; and if you’re lucky, you’ll eventually get a tenure track job; you will be in your mid 30s at best; you will sacrifice much of your life for the sake of this pursuit.”

        how many people got that kind of speech before hitting grad school in the humanities? i dunno, but i am confident the answer is “not nearly enough”.

        not doing that is an utter failure of due diligence on their parts. it’s frankly disgraceful. and the excuse is always “they’re a professor! how could they be expected to pay attention to trends in their field!” as if their profession was some kind of disability requiring accommodation.

        in the magical land that lives in my head, i’d be happy to serve on a jury that saw negligence damages against them, or whatever version of “professorial malpractice” that exists in said magical land.

        but i am rather extreme on this point.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        Re: Grad School. I don’t necessarily disagree and I also think a lot of people use grad school as a way of avoiding going into the real world especially if they know the economy is in some degree of suck. I wonder what grad school application rates were like doing the first tech boom/late Clinton years as compared to 2008 during the fiscal crisis for example.

        That being said when do you talk about this with students? When they are applying to college? When they are freshman or sophomores about to declare a major? During their junior year? Do you tell them don’t major in history or literature at all?Report

      • dhex in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        “That being said when do you talk about this with students? When they are applying to college? When they are freshman or sophomores about to declare a major? During their junior year? Do you tell them don’t major in history or literature at all?”

        i’m specifically addressing grad school and advisors. i would expect – and hope – professors and other advisors in those roles to be honest and up-front about what grad school does and does not do for students these days as the topic is raised.

        for those who indicate an interest in a phd track, i should hope conversations are honest and up-front, similar to what you’d say to someone who said “i want to be a rock star”. not a musician, nor even a working musician, but a genuinely successful and well-known one. i should hope the tone of the conversation would be similar in both scenarios.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        No doubt. There is a documentary called something like “You’re that guy in that thing…” that follows the career of 7 or so work-a-day actors. Not famous actors but people who earned decent lives through acting. Almost all the actors had long dry spells where they just weren’t getting any work and needed to sell everything or do something like be a limo driver for escorts or movers to support their families.

        If I were ever to teach and acting class, I would make this documentary mandatory viewing as the first homework assignment or before the class began and say “this is who you want to be or this is probably the more realistic successful career path for you.”Report

      • Kim in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        proof positive that America makes acting into an easy job, and an easy course of study.

        I think Arya Stark might have something more interesting to say about acting…Report

      • Another piece of advice advisers should give, in addition to what @dhex said is, “if after a year or two it looks like it’s not gonna work out, cut your losses and move on.”

        Although I think that advice, along with dhex’s, is good, I’m not sure how much to blame the adviser for not giving it. I mean, I think the adviser should give it and is neglecting a certain duty by not giving it. But I’m usually unclear where to draw the line between giving good professional advice and intrusive paternalism.

        Also, I think the issues are different between an MA and a PHD program, at least in the humanities or liberal arts. If an MA program turns out to be a waste of time, then that’s “only” 2 or 3 years. A PHD program is another thing entirely, or at least it can be. In my opinion, one danger from entering an MA program in the liberal arts is that some professor will encourage the promising student to apply to the PHD program. So if I were the kind of person who gave advice in such matters, I would say tell the student contemplating an MA to think thrice before taking the invitation to the PHD track.Report

  3. Badtux says:

    I question whether even a career in the trades is viable in today’s economy. I know several people who once worked in the trades as framing carpenters, drywallers, or other skilled tradesmen. Without exception they have been replaced in the trades by illegals from Mexico who can’t file OSHA complaints without being deported back to Mexico. Loopholes in the laws which allow a single licensed plumber or electrician to “supervise” the work of dozens of untrained laborers from Mexico while a giant tract home subdivision is under construction have reduced the ranks of licensed plumbers and electricians drastically. The increase in “wildcat” plumbers and electricians — those who were never formally trained in the area, received whatever training they have on the job, and will never be licensed in the first place — has far surpassed any increase in trades school trained plumbers and electricians, and most of the time when you call a plumber or electrician to handle a minor problem around your house you’ll get one of these “wildcats” coming to your house, not a licensed plumber or electrician. This is true even in states like Arizona which require licensing, occasional enforcement actions prove futile because the “wildcats” simply go out of business and pop up again under another name.

    In short, our economy is well and truly fscked to the point where there is no career advice you can give a young person that has any meaning. Tell them to go into IT? Too late, her job is taken by an H1B. Tell them to go into plumbing? Too late, her job is taken by Jose from Guadalajara. Tell her to become an auto worker? Too late, competition and a race to the bottom between the automakers has reduced wages for anybody entering that field today to little more than minimum wage thanks to “two tier” systems that protect the wages of current workers at the expense of new workers.

    I honestly don’t know what to tell a young person today other than, “you’re screwed.” And if that’s the case, why *not* take that degree in art history?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Badtux says:

      I honestly don’t know what to tell a young person today other than, “you’re screwed.” And if that’s the case, why *not* take that degree in art history?

      Major | Unemployment Rate | 25th/50th/75th percentile earnings

      Art History and Criticism | 6.9% | $33k/$45k/$71k
      History | 6.5% | $34k/$50k/$81k
      Computer Information Systems | 5.6% | $44k/$62k/$86k
      General Business | 6.0% | $38k/$59k/$91kReport

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        All in all the unemployment rates are relatively similar. So are the income breakdowns at everything but the 50th percentile.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        This does show a lower unemployment rate then someone without a college degree and higher earning. Unless you have a trade, and even then depending on the trade, it still looks like good numbers.Report

      • Badtux in reply to Will Truman says:

        I am aware of these numbers. And I am also aware that they have little correlation to the value of a degree program for the majority of graduates, because the majority of graduates in any of the above fields (well, except “General Business” since it’s so general) don’t get jobs in the field they studied. Indeed, only 24% of IT workers have a CIS BS degree or higher, and only 50% of the graduates of CIS programs find jobs in the field. The other 50% might as well have majored in art history or general business for all the good their CIS degree is doing them. And yeah the numbers look great because the 50% who do get offers are getting paid big bucks. The rest aren’t being paid much more than if they’d gone for that art history degree.Report

      • @saul-degraw The swings are $11k for the 25th, $17k for 50th, and $20k for 75th. On an annual basis, that adds up. An unemployment difference of .5% isn’t huge so long as you are not a part of that .5%. If those are the risks you want to take to follow your passion, then I have no problem with that (and I mean that sincerely). I should also add that I purposefully left off computer science, which represents a stark contrast, because I specifically wanted to choose more mediocre options and general on the tech/business side. And the numbers do not account for the grad school issue.

        @greginak In the aggregate, going to college is a good idea. I have a fondness for the vocational school, but more as a concept than in advice I would give to kids who live in the world as it is. I do question the statistics sometimes, wondering about self-selection and how important the aggregate numbers are in marginal cases. But I am not yet at the point where I recommend something other than “If you can graduate, go to college.” I am just also more comfortable with vocational tracks than humanities tracks in terms of potential earnings.

        There are actually multiple parallels in how I see the situations. I think “Everybody should go to college” is deeply problematic, even though on an individual basis I lean towards recommending college in many cases (contingent, mostly, on whether or not I think they would graduate). I think “Everybody should major in business” is also problematic, even though on an individual level I would recommend business over humanities in more cases than not.

        I don’t consider these numbers “bulletproof” by any stretch of the imagination, just as I do not consider the “Go to college” numbers to be bulletproof. But they are an indication of an answer to the question “Why not major in art history?”… because there are safer options. And in times of increasing uncertainty, the case for self-gratifying or self-actualizing majors becomes a harder rather than easier sell, in my view.Report

      • And I am also aware that they have little correlation to the value of a degree program for the majority of graduates, because the majority of graduates in any of the above fields (well, except “General Business” since it’s so general) don’t get jobs in the field they studied.

        I would argue that it speaks to degree currency. Even if you don’t have a job in IT, a CIS degree has more career currency than an art history degree. The question isn’t “How many of these people get degrees in their field” (almost no art history majors do) but “What happens with them in the aggregate?”

        The most we can do, other than chalking it up to chance, is to attribute it to confounding factors. I would love to say that CIS majors make more money because they’re smarter and more ambitious because I majored in CIS. But I don’t think that’s really the case, and I think that the average business major is actually less sharp than the average art history major. (Cut-rate online universities pitch business degrees for a reason. I think “Business” is the new “General studies” for a whole lot of students.)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman, besides Computer Information Systems none of these are really trades as defined by most people. What are the unemployment rates and income for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, barbers, etc.?Report

      • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        vocational school makes a damn fine learning opportunity… particularly for folks coming straight out of prison. Get some time to show that you aren’t going to be a druggie, and that you can be trusted with power tools.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Badtux says:

      Classy terminology you have there. This seems to be more heat than fact.Report

      • Badtux in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’m just telling you what I see with my own two eyes, which is that the opportunities that my generation had aren’t there for this generation.. If you’re going to puff yourself up ’cause I’m a working class kid from Louisiana who made good rather than some hoity toity upper class type who speaks all, like, hoity toity and such, I’m gonna call BS on you calling BS.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I think the normal word for “what I see with my own eyes” is anecdote.Report

      • Badtux in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Data which you appear blissfully unaware of, such as the content of the latest auto workers contracts from GM, Chrysler, and Ford, which basically put new auto workers in line with baristas income-wise. Or the data that hourly wages have been almost steadily declining for close to forty years now, median hourly wages for non-supervisory and production workers peaked in 1973 and have been falling ever since. Or median family income having declined for most of the past ten years, and still being only 90% of the 1999 value in inflation-adjusted dollars for the last year for which I have full data. I also have lots of data on employment amongst STEM graduates (half of whom are employed in non-STEM fields because job openings for STEM graduates are well exceeded by the number of STEM graduates), and other things of that sort.

        Data on illegal activities such as the subject of untrained illegals taking jobs from people with trades certification in trades fields is hard to come by though, because our overlords don’t want it measured, so the government doesn’t measure it. Plus hoity toity college educated types like you don’t think it’s a subject worth measuring because it doesn’t affect you personally. But because I’m from a working class family I’ve seen it happen so many times that I might point out, the plural of anecdote is data.

        I think my final comment on all these data, talking to young people today, is spot on given all this data of which you seem blissfully unaware. That comment to young people being, “you’re screwed.”Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I know I’m starting to sound like a crank on the subject, but…

        median hourly wages for non-supervisory and production workers peaked in 1973 and have been falling ever since.

        … it’s funny how that year keeps popping up in what-the-hells-wrong-with X discussions.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “I’m just telling you what I see with my own two eyes, which is that the opportunities that my generation had aren’t there for this generation.”

        Who counts as “this generation”? You mention “illegals” doing the framing and dry walling and plumbing. It’s not like the folks who used to do those jobs were replaced by robots. There are simply other people doing the work.

        Now, I find it deplorable that many of these people are exploited because of their legal status in our country. But it is also unfair to assume that this is the case for all of them.

        When I used to deliver food for an Italian restaurant, our entire kitchen staff was Brazilian. They were all here legally. I know this for a fact. I don’t know how their pay compared to what people in their positions got paid 10 or 20 years ago, but I’d venture to guess it was less once you correct for whatever needs correcting for. While their employment might have made things worse for the type of people who might have held that job a decade or two ago, it sure as hell made things better for them. Why is that necessarily a bad thing?Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        the robots are coming! The robots are coming!
        (next year?)Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Badtux says:

      The Federal government tends to have issues with departments not talking to each other. An undocumented alien can make an OSHA complaint without USCIS being informed of that person’s existence. Millions of undocumented aliens by their income taxes to the IRS and the IRS does not inform USCIS of their existence.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        OSHA may not tell USCIS about the illegal but the employer who just got reported on to OSHA will probably do so.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Employers won’t. Employers aren’t supposed to be hiring undocumented aliens to begin with and could get in severe trobule if the Federal government learns that they were using undocumented aliens in their business. Depending on the scale of the business, the Federal government might get suspicious about how man undocumented aliens are working there.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        murdering troublemakers is far more their style. “accidents” happen, after all.Report

      • Badtux in reply to LeeEsq says:

        SNERK! LeeEsq, you appear to be completely unaware of how trades work in the US today.

        Contractors don’t hire employees anymore. They hire labor sub-contractors. Labor sub-contractors who show up with a van-load of workers and have no fixed address. They then claim that it was not their responsibility to check the employment status of the workers on their project, it was the responsibility of the labor sub-contractor. Who conveniently has become suddenly scarce. Oh well.

        Illegals are low-information workers. They know how government works back home. They don’t know how government works here. As a result they are very risk-averse to having contact with any government agency of any kind, because they don’t know what the odds are of that contact resulting in them being deported away from their family, friends, and relatives. As a result they end up getting exploited here. Which is just fine with the businesses that employ them. Oops, don’t employ them, employ labor contractors who employ them. My bad.

        Anyhow, my point was more along the lines that the trades are no longer a reliable way to make a living if you aren’t in a class of people which is being exploited. The problem not being the immigrants, who are just people trying to make a living. The problem is a system that allows them to be exploited with little recourse. But as long as that happens, opportunities in the trades for people who are *not* in that class of people are going to be limited…Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Given the fact that I benefit from those illegal workers whether or not I hire a contractor who uses them adds another wrinkle. The guy I hire to do a landscaping or roofing job for my house knows that he has to compete against the guy who has no compunction against hiring illegal labor and this presses his rates down.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “benefit” being the key word. When you discover that someone forgot to connect the ducting, or insulate a wall of your house, or actually do the Manual J… Well, it’s cheaper, ain’t it! Sure, we all love cheaper!Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kim, I don’t hire the contractor who subcontracts to shady guys with shady job requirements. I hire the good contractor who stands by his work.

        Who, incidentally, has a lot of pressure to reduce his rates from the shady guys competing with him.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        maybe it’s where I live, but we get the best contractors in the area. They don’t have much price pressure from “Uncle Vinnie” because they’re charging for quality.

        $100 an hour work that takes 1 hour instead of 50, seemed like a bargain to me!Report

    • Kim in reply to Badtux says:

      get a degree in water engineering. Move to Australia.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Badtux says:

      In short, our economy is well and truly fscked to the point where there is no career advice you can give a young person that has any meaning. Tell them to go into IT? Too late, her job is taken by an H1B.

      As a software developer, I feel qualified to call BS here. The job market for software developers is as strong as it’s ever been, excepting perhaps the end stage of the Internet bubble. If a software developer can’t get a job, it’s likely because he’s just not very good.

      Even if that weren’t true, it wouldn’t make sense to blame H1Bs, because software companies can and do set up development centers overseas in order to hire workers for whom they can’t get H1B visas.

      The better reason not to tell everyone to go into IT is that many people just don’t have the aptitude for it. I’ve interviewed many such people myself.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Oh, I don’t have a problem getting a job — I simply need help with my resume and matching because I am just flat-out unable to lie on my resume, nor am I capable of applying for jobs whose qualifications I don’t meet.

        Which is fun, given that head-hunters routinely matched me for jobs I’d never have applied for and with a company who was quite greatful to have my skills.

        Why wouldn’t I apply? Because I lack 5 years experience with a technique, product, or concept that’s been in existence 3. Because I have experience with 3 of the 6 “must haves” on your list, but apparently just one is enough for you. (So why did you list 6?”)

        Seriously, 80% of software developer requirements seem to be written by people who took the guy who just quit’s resume, rounded everything to the nearest 5 year interval, and slammed it up on Monster or CareerBuilder or their internal site without actually checking to see how much of that former employee’s individual skill-set was actually used in the job.

        Drives me crazy. My huge pet peeve with my industry. I literally want to shake people. Especially when they’re all “Oh, you’ve never used Objective C and your Java experience was 10 years ago and you’re just vaguely familiar with Perl? You’re HIRED!”.

        (Seriously, it’s not that it won’t work out. Picking up languages is pretty simply, with Google you don’t even need a book you can just use experience with similar languages and concepts and a bit of googling for syntax and the obscure bits particular to whatever, and you’re fine. But they write the job descriptions like they want multiple languages in depth when really they’re looking for ‘can you work this out quickly based on what you do know’ and it drives me crazy. That’s why I don’t do contract work. I’d go broke, missing out on jobs they’d happily hire me for because I can’t get past the bit of me that says “If I don’t match 90% of those skills, I’m wasting my time applying”)Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        A year or two ago I read an article that said women generally look at very specific job requirements and think “I can only do 8 of the 10 things listed, I will not apply.” Men can seemingly think “I can do 4 of the 10 things listed, I will apply!”

        I am like you. It is good to know that there are guys like me as well.Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Oh, i know! The problem is the HR goons get to write the “generic software engineer” description, and then they post it on everything, regardless of usefulness.Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        just look at the bright side! at least your jobs aren’t covered under Non Disclosure Agreements…
        “Do you have experience in XYZ?”
        “I’m not allowed to disclose that…”
        “That’s exactly what we wanted to hear. You’re hired!”Report

  4. Fnord says:

    I’m not going to say trades-or-STEM-for-all, by any means.

    But, you know, there’s also no reason someone can’t be a plumber AND well-read in the classics or a dentist who loves and participates in musical theatre. Tradesmen and specialized professionals can also be “critical thinkers and writers with a deep love of learning.” Or, if they can’t, we’ve got a bigger problem than deciding who goes in which category, and we should maybe work on addressing the issue that the only “real” way to immerse yourself in your passion is to study it specifically from ages 18-22.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Fnord says:

      I was a part of a niche production outfit that was made out of a computer science, information systems, business, and music major. It can happen!Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Fnord says:

      Programs that designed to get kids into trades, STEM, or other less abstract subjects in college tend to do so by cutting down on exposure to the arts and humanities. From what I’ve read a lot of school districts are drastically cutting the amount of time spent on subjects like art, history, or literature because they are viewed as unnecessary thrills that have nothing to do with the standardized tests that are so popular these days with educators. You can be a carpenter and love literature but most people need exposure to it. Very few people get into arts and humanities by their own volition.Report

      • Fnord in reply to LeeEsq says:

        So, right, that’s the problem then. It’s getting people exposure to the arts and humanities even if they do end up deciding to go into the trades.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “…the standardized tests that are so popular these days with educators politicians.”

        FIFY, @leeesq .Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I think my brother meant people like Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan but I agree with your fix.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:


        Duly noted. Rhee, Duncan, and others like them fall into a weird middle ground of administrator/educator/politician.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        most people have a television at home. It’s actually harder to expose someone to STEM and plumbing than to arts and humanities.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kim, how do you expose somebody to painting, opera, and literary fiction through television? How does television allow a person to discover that they really like philosophy or ballet?Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Bob Ross, Rudolph Fellner, and LeVar Burton.

        Next question?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kim, most of art and ideas television has much lower natural viewership than traditional television. Very few people are going to be watching Bob Ross and thats exposure only to one type of art anyway. For a fuller exposure, schools are necessary.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I dunno. Dr. Who and The Simpsons seem pretty deep to me. Parks and Rec has some pretty good satirical bits on politicsReport

      • Badtux in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Whuh? You’re saying that pop culture exists, Kim, and is culture too? Heresy! Total heresy! Next thing you’re going to say is that the Rolling Stones are as important as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms! The horror, oh the horror…. 🙂Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Fnord says:


      I also don’t disagree but my brother has a point about how our education system is set up and how every education system in the world is set up as far as I can tell. Right now tracking seems to work like this in most of the world.

      1. Find the kids who are really good at school.

      2. Find the kids who are not so good at school or seemingly don’t care.

      3. Put the kids who are good at school and seem to like it on the university track.

      4. Put the kids who are not good or don’t care about school on the vocational track.

      If anyone can show me a system that exists and does otherwise, I would be deeply interested but right now I doubt one exists. There are also socio-economic things that place people on various tracks that seem wrong-hearted. One of my reasons for opposing tracking in general and being more of a college for all guy is that parental background tends to have too much emphasis in tracking systems. Kids from vocational backgrounds stay in vocational programs even if they are bright and bookish. Kids from college-educated parents tend to stay in the college educated track even if they show absolutely no interest or aptitude for academics. I’ve told Will that I would be more interested in tracking if someone could devise a system that would tell Drs. Smith that their son was simply not college material and Drs. Smith could not influence the system otherwise. Same with a vocational couple not being able to take their bright and bookish kid out of the academic track and into the vocational track.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        The classic tracking scenarios are actually much more complicated. There is a lot of variety in when tracking begins and the type of different type of high schools in a country. Different countries also have multiple types of secondary education institutions and different rules by switching tracks. It isn’t really that much like these kids go to college and these kids don’t. Many other countries have single-track educiation systems much like we do in the United States.

        Tracking would be a bad idea in the United States. Because of our history, I can easily see a disproportionate number of African-American and Hispanic kids getting put into the non-college bound track even if they were college able. Our geopraphy and low population density is going to make tracking difficult to implement because many locations aren’t going to have enough kids for a tracked system. We also don’t have the welfare state measures to make tracking less painful. One reason why Germany, the Netherlands, and other European countries can track is that the welfare state provides a lot of concessions for people that end up on the non-college bound track like mandtory paid vacations, etc.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        There are plenty of other systems — some work on the apprenticeship model (find someone already doing the trade, and learn from them).

        Others are designed to select the best and brightest (leave the rest to whatever the godforsaken country can cobble together).

        Some training programs are “pass or die.” Others involve large scale use of electroshock…

        [not all of these are for children, naturally]Report