Thursday, September 05, 2013

Learning about the Middle Ages can't get you a job (so says The National Post)

As universities welcome a new batch of students this month, the media has shifted its attention to what kind of programs they should be learning. According to Robyn Urback, writing in the Canadian newspaper The National Post, you shouldn't want to attend university to learn about the Middle Ages, or anything else in the arts and humanities.

In her article What do you mean I can’t get a job with my medieval feminist studies degree?, Urback explains those students will be sorry "when the realization sets in that that medieval feminist studies* degree is not as marketable as they had anticipated."

She calls on governments and universities to make it easier to get into skilled trades or nursing and at the same time scare high school students into avoiding programs like journalism, history and teaching by telling them about the high debt levels they will achieve and the dismal job prospects they will have after graduating.

Over the last several days several news pieces have come out pointing to problems with getting an education in the liberal arts. In the article Degrees of uncertainty: Is being a university graduate losing its value? from the Vancouver Providence those students "will find university impoverished them beyond anything they could have imagined. They will graduate with staggering debt loads and lurch between low-paying jobs as they fail to find work in their field. Finally, they’ll beat a retreat to college or a trade for more job-focused training. They will belatedly understand what they should have seen from the start: the treacherous disconnect between the job market’s needs and the output of degree-granting sausage ­factories."

Similar concerns are raised in US media - see Diploma Disaster - in Australia - see Wages do not reflect degrees - and in the UK - see Students are turning their back on arts and humanities courses for more 'profitable' vocational degrees

Meanwhile, Michael Gettings, associate professor of philosophy at Hollins University, writing in The Roanoke Times, suggests "Students headed to college this fall should consider that a liberal arts education may very well be their best option for future employment, not only in the short-term, but over the course of their careers." In his article, The value of liberal arts: an education, not just a degree, Gettings adds "Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is an oft-cited example of this connection between the liberal arts and innovation. In his commencement address to Stanford University, Jobs credited his study of calligraphy at Reed College as the inspiration for the industry-changing font design on the Macintosh computer. As American students worry about their post-college jobs, Asian universities hope that they will produce the next Jobs."

If you still want to learn about the Middle Ages, please check out our section on Medieval Studies programs around the world.

* No post-secondary institution in Canada (and probably in the world) offers a degree on medieval feminist studies. Not even a minor.