Saturday, January 3, 2009

What's Upcoming

The postings on what a degree is worth have brought some interesting and thought provoking responses from those who commented. They have also brought me a few interesting emails. Some of the comments have suggested the topics for some future postings, which will be on the subject of education--what it is, what it should be--and a liberal arts education--who needs it and why. The state of education (whatever that is) today is a topic that many are discussing. There are lots of pros and cons on all sides of this debate (yes, there are way more than two sides to this issue). So thank you to the readers who commented and fired up my imagination.

However, I am just a tad disgruntled at the moment [Thought: we know disgruntled people. Have you ever met a person who was gruntled?] A reader who sent me an email was making some perfectly valid points about a college education and then came this: "I mean, look at your own major. English and Education were the majors for those who couldn't make it in the harder majors. What can you do with an English degree if you don't teach English? High schools and colleges force students to take English courses I guess to give employment to the people who graduate with English degrees. It's not like they contribute anything really worthwhile to society like doctors and engineers do. Sorry if this upsets you but it's true as I see it."

[Smoothing ruffled feathers] The "worth" of certain majors is something I'll take up in a future posting. Ditto on what you can do with an English major. But perhaps now is the time to state that I may be teaching English but my undergraduate major was NOT in English, nor have I ever taken a formal course in Education other than two courses in Education for the Gifted and Tenets of Teaching Argumentation. English was that sub-major that I was missing one course in to qualify as a major. My major was in Speech--Rhetoric: Argumentation, Persuasion and Debate. One of the requirements for that major was a working knowledge of Latin and a working/reading knowledge of classical Greek. [Note: when I was in public elementary school we were given two years of Latin study as well as study of Greek roots. Two years before I entered high school was the first time that Latin as a requirement for high school graduation was made optional.] It certainly helped when so many of the required courses had Aristotelian and Platonic underpinnings. So much for a "Mickey Mouse" major. I had sub-majors in English, Linguistics and Comparative Literature. Yes, for graduate school I was "forced" to settle on one area and I chose English, but I also took courses outside of the required areas.

I'll admit it freely--I'm an "education" junkie. Put me near a classroom and a course and I start to salivate. Talk to me about writing papers and doing research and my adrenalin starts flowing. Know why I'm looking forward to retirement? Because I plan on spending a lot of unfettered time taking courses again. So is my husband. Learning for its own sake is a tenet I live by. Yup, I love school and schooling. I take a very pro-schooling stance. It is not that I am pro-school because I am teaching; I teach because I am pro-school.

Note to Self: Do not read emails motzoai Shabbos without a strong cup of coffee in hand and a sense of humor intact.


Anonymous said...

Take a deep breath and exhale honey. There are worse things then majoring in English. My bil was a Philosophy major--try explaining what that is.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious Rae. What does someone do for parnoseh if they majored in philosophy? I can understand English because it's taught in all schhools at all levels. I don't see too many jobs listed for philosophers.

Anonymous said...

He took his degree and went to Cornell Law school. He scored in the 99th percentile on the Law Exam for entrance, including a perfect score on the logic portion. He has worked as an Administrative Law Judge for years. The law schools used to love getting philosophy major applicants because they were really good at reasoning skills. Even with his obvious success in life people still ask him why he would bother with the philosophy major. He just smiles and says you had to be there to understand.

Anonymous said...

I majored in Latin as an undergraduate.
I loved it and don't regret it for a minute. Does it have anything to do with what I do for a living? No, of course not. However, it does have a lot to do with my knowledge of language, culture, history...

I loved graduate school too.
I love all kinds of school, and I love to read a kindred spirit's postings...
you go girl!

Lion of Zion said...

"Put me near a classroom and a course and I start to salivate."

with the exception of a friend in an MD-PHD program, in my circle i was in school the longest (by far). i am taking an exam next week to be a notary and over shabbat they were making fun of me that i finally finished school (in may), yet i still look for studying.

"Talk to me about writing papers and doing research and my adrenalin starts flowing"

people ask me what i do for a living and i respond that i read books and write about them. they stare at me like i'm crazy.

Knitter of shiny things said...

Talk to me about writing papers and doing research and my adrenalin starts flowing.

Would you like to write a paper on spinning technology in Neolithic Hong Kong? :-p (That is what I'm currently not doing. It's due today. I have 11 pages out of 15-20. I also lack a thesis. Gah!)

I had not one, but two of what would be called "useless" majors in undergrad: Jewish Studies and Anthropology. And now I'm doing a Masters in Theological Studies, which is also probably considered useless by the same standards. (The fact that these degrees come from UPenn and Harvard is probably of little import. Or it proves the commenter's point since these were expensive degrees. Yet English is the largest major at UPenn, with about 200 students in each class.) And I'm not currently going to do a PhD, but that may change. Usually people would use my degree to prepare for a PhD by learning languages and taking whatever prerequisite courses they missed as an undergraduate.

Of course, now that I'm graduating in June, the question of what can you do with an MTS starts to come up a lot. The job prospects for next year are not very encouraging. I'll probably get another masters degree so I can work in a museum with their collections, but I'm taking a year off first. Except that I'm underqualified for pretty much anything except teaching in a [most likely non-Orthodox] day school (because my Jewish studies did not include things like Talmud, but was more Jewish history and though), working for a non-profit, or some secretarial type job. Or I might enter the exciting world of retail sales.

The plus side is that I have no student loans to pay off, it's not likely that I'm getting married any time soon, and even if I was, I wouldn't have kids right away. So there are few expenses and I can afford to not be making 6 figures, as long as I have health insurance. (But the health insurance is crucial.)

But even though the job market is currently dismal, I'm still glad that I got the education I did. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer, or an accountant. Not all of us can work 60 hours a week in a high-stress job and keep our sanity. (And this of course has nothing to do with intellectual ability; I'm probably smart enough to work in these professions if I were given the proper education, but they are not fields I would excel in, and I would burn myself out.) I know my own limits, and I'm okay with dealing with the financial consequences. I'm much more useful to society doing something I love, even if it's not contributing anything to the world economically. (This is all supposing I even end up being able to do what I love...)

Also, I like being over-educated. It makes me feel intelligent. :)