Food for thought

Here’s an interesting little discussion a few of us had over the magical facebook, ever the stage for intellectual postulation.

Sam: Degrees that teach people a subject that only leads to them being a teacher of that subject are self perpetuating and pointless. Education for the sake of education.

Bryn James Etherington: example?

Sam: English Lit? Might be excellent proof that you can read 5 books a week, apply yourself academically to difficult tasks, understand the ins and outs of culture, think philosophically, write a good essay etc But I don’t see how those skills directly relate to any other job than being an english lit teacher. We all need to do degree’s in equestrian psychology…at least we will have trained for something and these fees might just be worth it.

Ewan: Education for the sake of enjoyment and self-fulfilment? Education with a view to something other than getting a good job, for those of us that don’t mind whether we get a good job? Education for the love of a subject? Education as something subjective, which can have more value for one person than it does for another? Education in the arts can be important for people that love the arts.

Sam: I could educate myself on the arts in many ways before paying for it. And, with tuition fees set to raise, we don’t really live in a society that allows for us to educate ourselves for enjoyment (unfortunately), no matter how culturally significant it may be. Developing writing/reading skills have value sure, but plenty of degrees (all?) need people to write/read proper good like.

Ewan: You read in a different way when studying literature. And culture is as important as anything else, I definitely want to live in a society that allows us to educate ourselves for enjoyment. In fact, I definitely don’t want to live in a society that chooses what we can educate ourselves in. And, whilst obviously you can educate yourself in the arts to a huge extent, there is an enormous value in being taught and mentored by the people who are the best at what they do. Your sentiments sound worryingly Gove-Willetts-esque.

Orcun Adsoy: Strangely a topic I have debated many times in the past. I have always seen English lit (specifically) as a great degree to have in addition to another degree or qualification. But as you said, it doesn’t apply directly to any job than that of an English teacher. If you have the time/money to study a core degree and do English lit after, then surely you won’t have any difficulty in finding a job, but on its own it seems fairly pointless.

Ewan Abraham: The job isn’t necessarily the point.

Sam: The people who are the best at ‘art’ teach rather than practice? – to quote JM (me):
‘With my degree being in English Literature (a fairly classic degree i might add) the chances of me getting a job anywhere (a job exclusively for Eng Lit students that is) is zilch. Partly because of the lack of jobs in the real world where my academic prowess would translate into anything useful’

Ewan: The best writers lecture, yes. And, again, for some, the job isn’t necessarily the point

Orcun Adsoy: Assuming I didn’t care about my job due to not caring about money/status etc.. I would assume your point is the furthering of ones knowledge of their craft. A fairly old fashioned yet admirable concept. How better to improve ones self in their craft than to get a difficult to attain, high end job in what ever it is you wish to do? Not to mention the pay from such a job would give you more freedom to do as you wish with your personal studies. Even if you say getting a good job is irrelevant from an artistic perspective, its still the best way to improve in most fields.

Ewan: It doesn’t really work like that in literature as far as I can tell: the best way to improve your craft is to live a life, rather than a career, and prioritise your work, not your career. And high-end doesn’t apply to literature in any important way, except in terms of quality, which isn’t affected by field or status of career.

Sam: I wonder if they lecture because they love to teach art, or because they cant afford to keep the lights on? If its about the craft not the job (which I agree it should/ needs to be) then surely JM would be happier studying for the rest of his life rather than woking? it seems that despite his love of literature and the arts, he will be consumed by the 9-5 monster. Education should be for love of learning and subject…the fact is that money is/will negate that.

Me: The job’s not the point at all. I haven’t had anyone that has done an Eng lit degree do anything other than justify their corner, but with any degree related to the arts, it’s a choice you make that is obviously going to affect you career wise. If it’s about jobs, money etc then you would surely make a conscious decision before going to uni to study maths, or law – or as you said earlier sam, equestrian psychology – I certainly know that I would rather be in a room with a bunch of eng lit grads than equestrian psychology grads (i know this isn’t your point)

The more narrow and specific the degree, the better chance of a firm job in that said field, but surely employers also look for adaptability, for well rounded individuals? It’s churlish to just say that english lit is only good for reading and writing, and it’s churlish to gloss over the words reading and writing as if they’re rudimentary skills everyone has.

With regards to relevance in the working world, when applying for a job a degree is only a few words on a piece of paper, a marker that presumably qualifies you as an educated individual. There are plenty of people in the working world without a degree, and likewise there are plenty of people in jobs of which there degree has no obvious relevance. A lot of people have said to me, why are you/did you do an English lit degree, what can you do with that. This is such an infuriating, blinkered question.

Joshua Offer: Thought i’d chime in with my 2 cents, because this is generally interesting Facebook fodder, and just to reiterate JM’s point. The adaptability of high level graduates in any field be it the arts or sciences is almost just as important than their relevant skills sets. The current favoured field for Sports and Exercise Science graduates at Exeter is recruitment. I cant be sure why so many people have been successful in getting tidy graduate jobs in this area but it must be something pertaining to what they have been doing for the past 3 years.

Ewan studies at Goldsmiths University of London and writes poetry.
Sam studies at Portsmouth University and writes his own zine.

I work 9-5, unfortunately.

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