Our modern society agrees that equality is important. Gender- equality or equal opportunities regardless of skin colour, for example. But what about the career path we choose? Why is it that some degrees are considered more useful and more difficult than others? And if Albert Einstein was right about politics being more difficult than physics, why is it that today students of the humanties or the arts are often regarded as less “useful” and less successful as students, who study sciences, engineering, medicine or law?
Maybe it is because of the money? As tuition fees and unemployment rises young people tend to choose “safer” subjects (which does not always correspond to the actual numbers: see the flood of unemployed law students). Maybe we are already so used to measuring everything in terms of money that education is little more than an investment that has to pay off at some point. I am not sure if it’s a good development to look at things only form this perspective.
The subject, students study is increasingly used to judge their intelligence, their ambition and most important their value. Law-students, business students, medical students and recently also informatics (IT), engineering and sciene students (chemistry, physics and maybe even biology) have a good reputation. Their job prospects and starting salaries are considerably high and courses are regarded to be difficult.
Language, Art, Education, Journalism and Social Sciences, like politics, sociology, psychology etc. students are often looked down on. A little bit like “wasn’t motivated enough for law”, “wasn’t intelligent enough for business”. They might have less promising career prospects and they might earn less money but it does not mean that these subjects and the people who take the time and effort to deal with them are less valuable for society.
There’s such vast ignorance and lack of respect of how hard it is to be a secondary school teacher or how difficult it is to make the right political decisions. And if it was not bad enough that these young people merging into the work force get paid next to nothing, in most cases the entire environment does not recognize that this degree was hard work. It might not be as easy to measure how good some is at being an artist as it is to measure how good someone is at calculations for building bridges but that certainly doesn’t mean that a humanties or arts student is less hard-working or intelligent.
I think there’s a lot to loose for society: if all you get after putting your effort in politics, is non-paid internship and a condescending smile, people are going to quit doing it.
How are we going to live without teachers, without psychologists (even of you don’t need help, you probably find the research and studies interesting). How are we going to live without politicians and the journalists, who analyze them? How would a discussion about establishing new rules for society after the credit-crunch, the recession and the euro-crisis look like without sociologists? How boring would life be without art, literature and fashion? And even if some claim, that they would live perfectly fine without art, the loss of this massive industry would flood the labour market with unemployed gallery-owners, curators and the like.
I think we should appreciate that we have the opportunity to choose from so many disciplines and also the benefits that come wit graduates, specialized in so many fields. Diversity is not only about culture, language or skin color. There’s also an educational diversity that should be valued and maintained. It’s amazing how much knowledge mankind has accumulated over the course of its existence. It’s our duty to keep and develop it.It’s narrow minded and doesn’t show any intellectual perspective if someone thinks one subject is superior to the other. As a modern society we need as many experts as possible: we need the doctor as well as history student.
* Albert Einstein said this in response to being asked why people could discover atomic power, but not the means to control it, as quoted in The New York Times (22 April 1955).