Where’s the crime in ‘wasting time’ at university?

Don’t let naysayers derail your dreams. Study what you want.


If you are a university student or a university-bound high school student you probably have the impression, thanks to Canadian media and possibly your parents, that the future is bleak. They would have you believe that learning for learning’s sake is a waste of time and picking a potentially lucrative major is not. There are no jobs, they warn, certainly not in art history or philosophy or whatever allegedly dead-end major you plan to pursue—so you may as well learn something “useful.” They are right about jobs. The future, not to mention the present, is bleak. Youth unemployment in Canada is exceedingly high; in Ontario, according to a September report, one in two persons between 15 and 24 has a paid job—the worst ratio we’ve seen since Statistics Canada began recording the numbers in 1976.

The establishment is wrong though, about university majors. After all, if job prospects are dim for everyone, you might as well study whatever you like. The Margaret Wentes of the world love nothing more than to belittle young people who major in supposed vanity disciplines: women’s studies, queer history, French poststructuralist pining, etc. But they seldom mention the students who’ve majored in so-called “useful” subjects (law, chemistry, engineering, insert-other-subject-armchair-boomers-never-bothered-to-study), because the “useful” grads among us are also wallowing in parental basements. Numbers don’t discriminate; 2:1 is a bad ratio in Canada’s most populous province and unless every other young person is a women’s studies grad, there are a whole lot of would-be doctors and lawyers walking around jobless too. Why? Because beyond the depressing job market, the reason for rampant youth unemployment and malaise is simple: people change their minds. And no one changes his or her mind more rapidly and readily than a young person.

In my last year of university I had no idea what I wanted to do. Neither did any of my friends, the majority of whom are now pursuing completely different things post-graduation and could not have had the foresight in first year to know what would interest them down the road. When I started university, I assumed I’d become an English professor, but my essays always came back with lousy grades and comments like: “Fun read but no substance, sounds like a magazine column.” (In rejection, I would find my calling.) My best friend studied commerce, intent on becoming the next judge on Dragon’s Den. Today she teaches math to 10-year-olds, something she discovered she liked a lot more than spreadsheets and elevator pitches. If you had told her that when she was 18 though, she would have called you crazy. Dreams change—sometimes for the better. (Thurgood Marshall originally wanted to be a dentist.)

Having an idea about what you want to do isn’t a bad thing, nor is having a plan of execution. University tuition is outrageously high, not to mention grad school. And seeking education in the highly employable trades is for many students, a far more desirable path than pursuing pricey master’s degrees while waiting for the job market to change. But in our mission to beat the employment market, we risk squelching personal interest, creativity and ignoring, at our own peril, the fact that interests and expectations are wont to drastically change.

The psychological difference between a first-year university student and fourth-year student is equivalent to the difference between a Grade 9 and a Grade 12. Four years is an eon when you are young; something well-meaning parents and fear-mongering journalists should consider before pushing rigid career plans on high school students. And students should consider this: Unless you’re some kind of phenom, chances are you won’t get much done mapping out your entire future with an untested and superficial notion of success. Half of you will change your major, and a lot of you will wish you had. So read books and have fun. As Jeanne Meister writes in Forbes, citing Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert, “Since humans have been proven to be terrible at predicting what will make us happy, it’s crucial that we find it through trial and error.” Your major will not make or break your future. And thinking far ahead is often the least productive, most paralyzing thing a person can do. Think about next week instead. People fall into things. Let yourself do the same.

Have a comment to share? emma.teitel@macleans.rogers.com


Where’s the crime in ‘wasting time’ at university?

  1. Thank you!

    The whole purpose of education is…..education.

    You are supposed to explore a lot of different subjects, and eventually find what suits you best….what interests you the most…what ‘makes your heart sing’.

    I don’t know why there is this almighty rush to get in and get out to a jobless market in the first place.

    Or why we have this attempt to short-circuit the whole process by becoming a plumber.

    The cost of post-secondary education seems to be what’s causing the problem. What we need is universal education….especially in the knowledge age.

    Education is the one thing guaranteed to move the poor and the middle class up the ladder, and to free women, plus lower the population.

    • So if we are all going to be sexologists, lawyers, shrinks, politicians, BA and MBA (more b–g–r all) ….arts, teachers and actors…..

      Then who provides the steel, food, gas, medicine?

      When I chose my profession I chose it for 2 reasons, I liked it but also because there were JOBS at the end of the efforts. So I did electronics engineering, and it was not for easy riders as 78 started and only 10 graduated, one conditionally. Got a great career our of it even though I ended up in information security and software development before I retired early.

      I wouldn’t go into debt for a fluffy degree and no jobs. Only the stupid people ignore the economics of life.

      • It’s also handy to know who to think abstractly from time to time. Lost count of the stupid engineers i’ve run into. The converse is also true. There are more then a few academics out there who could usefully have taken a sabbatical in the oil patch or on the farm.

      • I have to ask: why or how did “sexologist” come to be the first ‘profession’ on your list? Because while we all know “lawyers, shrinks, politicians … artists, teachers and even actors, I wonder how many of us know, or have sought the advice of, a sexologist. Frankly, I’m not sure what such a person does (but maybe I could use some help)!

        • I didn’t know it was a professional designation…

      • I thought you were felled by a disability…

    • Nothing wrong with making your heart sing and knowing how to clean out the pea trap.

    • I don’t care what you study, as long as you are not taking up the space of someone who is really interested in the topics. And I don’t care if you make it or not as long as I don’t have to foot the bill when you don’t pay up at the end of the degree.

      • I doubt you’ll get to hover over every student in school….ever.

        Universal education means it’s for everyone.

        • You obviously had a very well balnced education throughout your life, Em, and I would guess that you probably worked your way through university or college on the same premise. Well done. Seriously, why don’t you go for Ford’s job? Toronto could use your wit and wisdom.

          • LOL I know they could….but I don’t live there.

  2. There are many things in this article that I agree with, however:
    – there are in fact many jobs in high demand and doing a bit of homework can help you identify many potential career routes that will lead to a good job.
    – there are many majors that will clearly not lead to a good job – or any job. You’re free to choose one of those majors if you want, but don’t complain to me afterward about how you can’t find a job or how outrageous tuition is. If you want me to subsidize your education through my taxes, pick a career that’s needed.
    – where did you get the idea that everyone should be free to choose whatever major they want, regardless of how unnecessary it is? Universities are heavily subsidized specifically because they are an important tool to ensure that our society has the skilled workers that it NEEDS. If you want to study witchraft, pay the FULL amount yourself (tuituion is about 1/3 the total cost of educating a student, the rest comes from taxes, donations and university investments.

    • I guess no one subsidized your education then? Hopefully no one lectured you on what to do with your life. Nice finish there, good form to go from the rational to the irrational wild generalization like that. If you’d taken a little more of that useless arts stuff you might have discovered long ago we don’t own our kids, nor are they obliged to just please us cuz we pay the taxes right now. Hopefully they’ll pay their share of taxes too someday.

      • Of course my education was subsidized. I’m not suggesting that education not be. What I’m saying is that it’s irresponsible to take a position that one can study whatever they want regardless of whether or not it will result in any meaningful benefit to yourself or society, then complain that tuition is still too high and it’s too hard to pay back student loans. When I chose what to study, I did my homework, found a major that both interested me and resulted in my having a career. I’ve paid off my education and happily pay taxes to support a postsecondary education system. I’m also not suggesting that all of the arts aren’t useful, of course we need arts majors to support a vibrant and prosperous society. I don’t believe that we should be telling our children what to do – just the opposite – I’m telling young people that with the right to choose comes the responsibility to choose wisely. The author is telling people to just study whatever you want, it doesn’t matter cause you won’t get a job anyway.

        • “The author is telling people to just study whatever you want, it doesn’t matter cause you won’t get a job anyway”

          No she isn’t, she’s simply saying you never know what kind of curve life is going to throw at you, so don’t automatically listen to people like you who claim responsibility and duty always come before personal choice.
          I think she’s right. But given the cost of education( the public subsidy was a good deal higher in your time, did that make you irresponsible?) that’s going to be a hard sell. Society has to find a way to defer some of the cost of an education .
          The principle object of a higher education is still to teach people how to think, not just how to do.

    • Actually universities were not set up to meet the needs of the job market. Rather, they were set up to produce well (liberally) educated citizens. At its heart it is about basic research, not applied. It is about thinking, questioning, an discovery, not vocations. From this approach ideas spring from research readily available to anyone.

      You argue that this is not what universities should do. Sadly with the increased vocationalism in the university sector we are creating single dimensional workers, or basic cogs, that are to be used and discarded readily by industry. It is unfortunate that so many people think in such a short sighted manner. This is truly part of the undoing of our future.

      In short, if you want vocational training go to college ( as I wish far more university students would).

      • Where did I say that I was against basic research? There is plenty of basic research taking place in universities that is resulting in great things and very productive careers for students who choose that route. There is also basic research that is a waste of time and money.

  3. Clearly this journalist did not take statistics.

    • Nor economics.

      • possibly not even journalism…(sorry, Emma, it was a joke waiting to be written).

  4. Glad to she someone pushing back against Wente, who seems to have majored in fear mongering and little else…look where her career choices brought her? To a point where she is presumably happy – venting her spleen on others.
    Very good advise at the end there Emma. I’m a good example of why kids shouldn’t worry much beyond the next week [ while still trying to peer into the dim future] I worried incessantly about what i might become to the degree i took no post secondary degree at all. Being a pendant about your fate is a recipe for paralysis. My very favourite Einsteinism is the one where he places imagination above knowledge – pure genius that guy.
    That said i find the system too inflexible. Why not major in say English, philosophy or education and minor in carpentry or plumbing? It’s not like you have to absolutely get a journeyman’s certificate before your time is up – you just need some back up while you may be on the job hunt for that dream job. Second string to your bow, that sort of thing. Learn something practical over the summer recess. The other upside of this we produce less us and them kind of folks. Less class distinctions. What’s wrong with a Dr knowing how to fix his car, or a magazine writer drive a bus, pull a shift on a drilling rig at 35 below while at uni?

    I intent to encourage my kid to take whatever she takes her fancy[ still a dad so basket weaving is frowned upon] but let her know if there any practical skills she can pick up along the way, or i can give her, not to scorn them. You never know what it is life has in store for you. That’s the fun of it, we shouldn’t encourage them to fear that.

    • I like that idea, “Major in english, minor in plumbing,” I would love to see more hybrid options like that available.

      • I believe the German system encourages more of this stuff, as well as encouraging those with little enthusiasm for the academic route to get an early practical start in life. We can have both or just one, or as many options as we like if we want. A smart country learns from what works in other smart countries.

      • When I was at university, there were professors who belittled students who thought this way. I remember one said, “if you want to learn practical skills, go to college. It’s not my job in a university.”

        • Agreed.

          If you want an education go to university. If you want a job skill go to trade school.

          • If you want job skills……buy your own house. You’ll learn soon enough.
            And frankly, if you are a women’s studies major…..you won’t have the money to pay a plumber to do it in any event.

          • That post has nothing to do with getting an education.

            ‘Women’s studies’….that one really seems to bother men I dunno why….however the graduates are in demand. Perhaps something involving half the planet is important.

          • Please enlighten us to this sudden demand for women’s studies major’s, Emily.
            Every graduate of that field I have ever seen….was usually serving me coffee, or at the bank to cash their assistance cheque.

          • Well, you don’t get out much.

          • Apparently, when I do go out I go to places like Banks, Insurance companies, Financial institutions, Libraries, theatre, etc…etc…etc…
            And yet, I feel let down that I have not met a single successful person who majored in Women’s studies.
            Where should I go to meet these great fonts of wisdom, Emily?
            (And don’t recommend a Lesbian bar…that would be too obvious)

          • There’s no demand for Women Studies’ majors.The discipline is widely thought of as having lax academic standards, and Womens’ Studies majors are seen as having huge chips on their shoulders about men and itching to start a lawsuit. Just what every employer can’t wait to hire.

          • Agreed….
            If any candidates dropped off a resume’ showing they were “Women’s studies’ or “Gender studies” major’s…..I wouldn’t even bother reading it. To me, they are both best described as “Degree’s in victimhood”
            Degree’s in this type of field, are just easy outs for folks who can’t do math, and have no real interest in anything of importance.

          • Hi James,

            I graduated with a BA two years ago, minor women’s studies. I currently work for a great company, with a great salary and benefits. I do not make anyone’s coffee, (I have an assistant) and part of my job is creating and balancing a large budget (my math skills seem to be in fine shape, thanks!)

            During my degree, I was often told it would prove to be “useless”, but I think it was one of the most valuable choices I’ve made.

            P.S. I do not hate men, but I really disagree with a lot of the points you’ve made here.

  5. Actually, even if an economy is in a downturn, people can get jobs… as the downturn means the intellectual fat, stupid and lazy get the worst of it.

    If you pick careers than have jobs and produce something real that people want, you are going to be upper class. A good doctor, nurse, engineer, welder, plumbers, electricians, millwrights, heavy equipment and diesel mechanics will not be unemployed for long.

    But if you have dime a dozen chair mushroom jobs and low demand with lots of people ahead of you, like teachers, government union, BA, MBA, Liberal Arts, sexology, basket weaving, politics, lawyers and other consumption jobs you are in trouble.

    Note the trend, society productive jobs are generally doing well and society consumptive jobs are saturated and on the decline. So unless mom or daddy have some pull, dirty secrets on someone to get you hired, we are not all going to work for consumptive government for the simple fact nothing gets done.

    Choose your career paths carefully, work hard at it and you will do well.

    • I’ve known periods when all of those people on your list have had longish stretches of being on the dole in my life time. You’re doing what dogmatists do, conflating the now with the past and the future. Which is a irony that will likely shoot right past you given the slant of this article.

    • Again with the “sexology.” Goodness.

    • Sweatshop workers in Bangladesh are in careers where they produce real things that people want. They are rolling in it, yes?

      Your analysis relies on a poorly constructed dichotomy between productive workers and unproductive ones. Just because people don’t do things with their hands, doesn’t mean they aren’t productive. And this is obvious when we imagine a world inhabited only by your first group.

      First of all, production doesn’t just happen. If you organized the same group of workers in different ways, you would have radical differences in output. This is where things like capital markets (aka. MBA’s) impact production. Similarly, a well-functioning capital market requires an effective system of property rights. A legal system necessitates lawyers and judges navigating instances of ambiguity in the courtroom. Productive activities require trained workers – and who better than graduates armed with the critical thinking skills they developed in the social sciences/liberal arts. Similarly, both the private and public sector need bureaucracies – who exactly is supposed to fill them?

      Secondly, even if members of the “unproductive” group were unproductive dead weight in the short-term, they are critical in the long-run. They include the entrepreneurs (social and material), innovators that generate and execute ideas that make us better off.

      I think the far more important distinction for our prosperity is not between productive and unproductive, but rather, innovative and static. We foolishly lionize the doctor as the pinnacle of professional achievement, ignoring the army of mostly faceless researchers that made the doctor’s work possible. Unfortunately, many innovative activities are under-rewarded in our economy, because people cannot monetize all of the social value that their ideas create.

      Should every student study sociology? No. And it *is* a problem that many people choose degrees without thinking about the job market realistically. But such degrees do give students general skills that are valued in the marketplace. Whatever dave777’s prejudices, employers are willing to pay the holders of said degrees a great deal more than they would pay high school graduates.

  6. Nothing wrong with doing what you love. Just don’t expect it to pay well, or for anyone else to subsidize a choice that is a vow of poverty so that your heart can sing.

    • It’s okay though to make elementary and secondary school free….just not the level where we most need people to study?

      How does that help society?

      • Apples & oranges. I suggest you go back to school.

        • Oh but why? Education is a bad thing according to everyone on here….unless of course it’s plumbing.

          I suggest you think things through.

          • I never said education was bad. You really could use a reading comprehension course.
            Might I suggest Greendale?

          • Most people on this site do….and you chime in worried about it costing you a nickel, so you are part of that crowd.

            Might I again suggest you think things through?

          • Look, there’s no shame in admitting you are not up to par. Just apply for a grant, and you will be eligible for ESL, or Underwater Sylvia Plath 101. So you seem to be a part of THAT crowd. Nice to see the Greendale reference was also missed, which tells me your age bracket. (Growing moss.)

          • This discussion has gone on at Macleans for some years. You are coming in late.

            Sit back and learn before being rude to people

          • I have to pay my dues before being honest & open?
            You get what you give, troll-ette.

          • Ahhh I see you are one of the anti-feminist, anti-boomer, dirt-bike, smart-mouth crowd.

            You have no interest in the topic here at all…..so Ciao.

          • So, you can click an avatar!!! Good for you…

          • Yup….avatar suits you too. Now ciao.

          • Real Layer – Emily is a buffoon who does not read anything that anyone says and makes wild and unfounded accusations against all. The fact that she styles herself as a proponent of education is one of the richer ironies of the Maclean’s comment boards.

          • I have lurked here a bit and noticed she tries to put in airs, but really can’t back it up. Seems like a Monarchist with delusions.
            but, that is the rich tapestry of living; nourishing plants benefit from manure like that, too.

          • And very hostile towards plumbers. Someone got the pump and dump after their drain was unclogged.

          • One of your Libertarian Loon ideas actually. Somewhere for the last half century the Loons have claimed to know a plumber who makes 100K a year.


          • You needed to meet my father before he died. He was a plumber, and we lived very comfortably.

          • Not what I said.

          • So now we have to literally spell everything out for you while you take random, made-up shots? It’s only a double-standard if you do not benefit, and dissent is bigotry.

            Ya heard me.

          • I”m not interested in a bunch of clueless kids who think they’re hot shots.


          • Ciao. Heard that before.

          • The kinda rubbish you post….you’ll hear it again.

          • It’s not what you do, it’s how well you do it. You can make a 100 bucks an hour doing whatever it is you do, but if no one wants to pay you to do it or you suck at it…. your making nothing.
            I know of two… one makes at least that or close to it as he works hard and for a large company, the other likely doesn’t break 40K because he’s a slacker and can’t hold a job.
            Much like any job, it depends on if you at the top of your pay scale, or at the bottom.

          • Miners work hard. When they retire, they get a gold watch and possibly black lung,

            The mine owner retires rich.

            You don’t need to work hard…..you need to work smart.

          • Correct:
            Emily…please tell us how you support yourself while spending 40 hours a week online writing in various comments sections?
            I suspect you were smart enough to find a way to have taxpayers (and some are plumbers) pay your way while type feverishly over the keyboard.

          • For the umpteenth time….I run a business online. I drop in here whenever, to read items and comment…seeing as that’s what a comment site is for.

          • I’m not sure if hawking the goods you pick up at yard sales on Kiijji would be considered an “online business”….
            But if it makes you feel better…..

          • Our Libertarian Loons are out in full force today I see. LOL

            All of them imagine they’re John Galt, able to invent something fantastic in the garage…..instead of getting a real education and going to work.

          • I now believe you are the dowager of Trotsky. My plumber father taught me that.

          • Anarchist, actually, but that won’t fit your agenda. Try Wikipedia.

          • Same thing. Not a brain between you.

          • I thought you said “Ciao.”
            Did you mean “Chow,” as in; needing a snack?
            Hooked on Phonics does not go well with Google translate, no matter how pretentious you wanna be.

          • Actually, reading Emily’s comments I would surmise the following is pretty close to being accurate.
            1. Would qualify for the “senior’s discount”
            2. bitter and single.
            3. Lonely enough that she needs confirmation on multiple web-sites, and is happy with even the most negative comments directed her way, because at least somene “is paying attention to me”
            4. Has a Liberal arts education, but is still pissed she had to work as a receptionist at a plumbing company. (joking…maybe)
            5. Lives on some form of govenment assistance; probably something to do with “disability” of one form or another.
            6. Is perpetually angry, and when not angry, looks for a reason to be..because well…dammit she wants to feel “something!!”
            7. Even her friends don’t like to visit her because of the negative vibes.
            Emily….lighten up. Life’s too short to be angry all the time.
            I believe we’ve had this discussion before.


          • FINALLY. Somebody under 75.

          • Clearly, Emily has had issues with plumbers in the past, and she is not yet over it.
            I guess having to run to the gas station down the road tends to wear on one’s mind…..or in Emily’s case, one’s opinion of plumbers, or other members of the great unwashed trade school detrius.

          • I’m guessing the pipes have not been snaked in decades.

      • Well, Emily, paying people to go to university won’t help the would-be plumbers or “tradesman” you seem to look down upon. I will grant you your point if you also agree to pay for the training of tradesmen is just as valid.

        • You don’t pay people to go to primary or secondary school….so you wouldn’t be paying them for tertiary school. It’s would simply be free like the other two levels.

          • No, but we pay FOR people to go to school. Belive it or not Emily, everything has a cost…and someone has to pay for it.
            Now answer my question. Would you have the public pay for tradespeople to go to school and learn a profession, or are “those people” only worthy of paying for others’ to go to University?

          • Yes, everything has a cost. And a country with low education levels pays heavily.

            A country with no taxes and every man for himself….is Somalia.

            PS Why do you want to deny people an education? Didn’t you get one?

          • ” It’s would simply be free like the other two levels.”
            Where were you educated?

          • I did get one Emily, but you can be sure it was not in gender studies. In fact, folks in my field (me included) have six-figures salaries as an average…..and I’ve also managed to picked up some plumbing skills in my travels.
            In fact Emily, I’m sure that I provide more for education through my taxes than most….but you still avoid the question. You insist we should pay for University…..do you feel the same way about trades school?

  7. 1) You need to provide some stats on the unemployment levels of the graduates of various degrees and programs. You can’t tell me that a graduate of Engineering or computer science is going to have as hard a time finding post-grad employment as an English or History graduate will unless you’ve got some numbers to back it up. ‘Cause I don’t believe that for one moment.

    2) The premise of this is OK, if you can afford it. If you are going into significant debt to finance your “education” as many people do, it’s irresponsible not to have a plan to get out of it at the end. By all means, enjoy your time at school, but if all you want is the party life, go live in a student house in a university town without going tens of thousands of dollars into debt for something you can’t use.

    • Silicon Valley wants the to bring in foreign engineers and computer scientists to suppress salaries, rather than hire qualified Americans.

      It is sort of like the abuse that was recently uncovered in the Canadian temporary foreign worker program. In certain places there is a genuine need where there is a skills gap, but often it was used to suppress salaries and get a docile compliant underpaid workforce.

      Just look at all the slave labour on internships the media industry employs. Minimum wage. Eff that. No wage.

  8. It is not wrong to go into university not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life. It is cerainly a good idea to explore a few options and to be flexible.
    But it would also be wrong to not at least consider to prospective career implications of the major you choose. While it is true that there are unemployed engineers and unemployed philosophy majors, the percentage of unemployed engineers is an awful lot lower. University is expensive – both for the student and the taxpayer (who still carries most of the freight). Unless you are lucky enough to be wealthy (as many university students are), then you will have significant debts when you finish that you will have to pay back. It would be foolish to not assess your ability to pay this back before you embark on a university career.

  9. University is going to be technologically disrupted because the higher education cost bubble in the United States, overflowing into the rest of the world.

    The problem with university is not whether what one studies it is immediately relevant or not, but students and their families are being ripped off and enslaved by the grossly inflated tuition and textbook costs.

    It is akin to the patent trolls.

    Banksters and 1%’ers look for soft spots where they can create rentier income streams off of the backs of the 99%.

    Inflating the cost of education is one of them. Enslave the young with the burden of monstrous debts.

    The issue is being totally misframed by Wente and this author.

    • A few years ago, Wells turned me around on the tuition question. I used to be in the “cheap or free” camp, and hadn’t properly considered how that subsidizes the post-secondary educations of people who can afford it, to the detriment of those for whom the cost is an impediment. Allowing the schools to set market rates and redirecting the government education funds into a means-tested bursary system makes a lot more sense to me now.

      • OMG….well we wouldn’t want anyone to be a nickel ahead of us would we……!

        We’ll cheap ourselves to death instead.

  10. What complete and utter claptrap. Of course people should do what makes them happy. Just don’t be stupid enough to go $30,000 into debt at university doing it. Why would you pay a university $10,000 a year to sit around and read books you like? Keep the $10k and buy more books!

    With the exception of a few professions, university is a complete waste of time and money. There is so much information available for free on the internet that there’s no point anymore. You can’t have some guy who graduated 30 years ago tell you how to get a good education, because those professors have no clue what’s happening in the real world.

    For example, while studying Computer Science, I actually had a professor who taught Assembly language on a bloody overhead projector. This was a computer science professor. But he liked doing it that way, and didn’t care if his hand writing was illegible, that it made it impossible to copy/paste code snippets, or made something that’s difficult to comprehend to begin with that much harder, or how much time it wasted. Rather than scrawling on the overhead, he could have simply pulled up a powerpoint slide with the code and actually EXPLAINED what it was intended to do. Complete insanity.

    • Doesn’t matter what you study at university…what you need is the degree.

      The piece of paper. The credentials. The official ‘OK’

      No boss is going to hire you on the basis of ….’but but…I read books!’

      • That’s right Emily….far better to have an idiot who can’t do basic math without counting on his fingers…as long as he has a piece of paper saying he’s got a degree and is therefore “smart”
        As opposed to someone without a degree who has an interest in everything, and is far more intellgent than a degree holder.
        In my experience…..no employer would EVER hire the smart guy over the idiot. It’s all about the paperwork.
        (O ) (o ) <——gender studies student asked an accounting question by a potential employer.

      • Another point Emily,
        I’m assuming you have the required paperwork, but the job you are doing now to support yourself does not require a degree…the “official OK” as you say, which leads me to sympathize. All that time at school and you didn’t even need a degree.
        Using your very own high standards, it is clear that the work you perform doesn’t have much value. Perhaps you should have gone to trade school yourself. I hear plumbers are doing very well these days.

    • An alternative system might be to provide the certification but not the education. One would imagine that would be a lot cheaper, if we could figure a way to ensure the tests etc cannot be easily gamed.

  11. Yes the 16.4% youth unemployment rate is bad, but at the same time, there is a significant skills shortage across the country in many skilled professions, particularly engineers. Our author would do well to provide a reference to explain the claim that engineers are “wallowing” anywhere, as I think you’d be lucky to find one that wasn’t busy.

    http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2013/01/30/graphic-what-canadians-choose-to-study-today/ (yes, from this very same website)
    “…a new Statistics Canada report on what post-secondary enrollments looked like nationwide in 2010-11, show that despite a shaky economy business, social sciences and humanities still accounted for half of all enrollments.”

    And below is the list of occupations where foreigners are being granted visas to fill the skills gap. Seems to me there is a significant mismatch here. It is not a ‘jobless market’ out there, as many would think, it is just a massive mismatch between skills being produced and skills needed. We don’t need more social science graduates, but more are coming. We need more engineering graduates, but less are coming.

    I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who would love to study the nature of the English language, or delve into ancient Greek, Latin, Chinese or whatever else and somehow magically get paid for it, but the fact of the matter is there are very limited opportunities to make a reasonable living in these areas.
    By encouraging people to dive head first into “whatever sounds appealing” without first taking a look at the long-term implications is foolhardy at best, and is costing both individuals, and the country.

    Here’s the list of job areas where Canada is importing temporary foreign workers this year:
    0211 Engineering managers
    1112 Financial and investment analysts
    2113 Geoscientists and oceanographers
    2131 Civil engineers
    2132 Mechanical engineers
    2134 Chemical engineers
    2143 Mining engineers
    2144 Geological engineers
    2145 Petroleum engineers
    2146 Aerospace engineers
    2147 Computer engineers (except software engineers/designers)
    2154 Land surveyors
    2174 Computer programmers and interactive media developers
    2243 Industrial instrument technicians and mechanics
    2263 Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety
    3141 Audiologists and speech-language pathologists
    3142 Physiotherapists
    3143 Occupational Therapists
    3211 Medical laboratory technologists
    3212 Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants
    3214 Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists
    3215 Medical radiation technologists
    3216 Medical sonographers
    3217 Cardiology technicians and electrophysiological diagnostic technologists, n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified)
    Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/backgrounders/2013/2013-04-18.asp

  12. Very good article. One note, though: the problem with all the hype about studying for a career is that unless you are in a professional program, no university degree qualifies you to be anything in particular. What these degrees give you (assuming you study and don’t party for four years) is the ability to critically think, problem solve, and express yourself well both verbally and in writing. What you do with these skills requires a certain amount of entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility. The idea that you a failure because you did a degree in philosophy or art history but now work at a bank only applies if you have tunnel vision and a stunted idea of what constitutes education.

  13. Whatever subject the author studied evidently did not include probability. “You won’t get a job anyway, so study whatever you want” is profoundly bad advice. The reality is that there are big differences in outcomes across majors. The salary difference between the most and least remunerative majors runs in the tens of thousands.

    I do think people should follow their dreams, subject to reality. Lets say my dream is to be a journalist, but I am only an average journalism student with average networking abilities. Given the bad state of the journalism job market, my prospects of achieving my dream are very slim.

    It would be far better for people to ask themselves WHY they want to be a journalist. If journalism wasn’t a realistic career prospect, they could then find the next best thing that fits their needs. Studying journalism and working in Starbucks is nobody’s dream.

    One other thing I’ll throw out there is that most of us think about university degrees incorrectly. We view them as a ticket to a specific career, something that is rarely true. A large swathe of majors essentially teach constructive thinking (though if one is entrepreneurial, one might take classes that signal particular abilities) – they make us generalists. However because people are “following their dream” and studying journalism to be a journalist (or whatever) they enter the job market with blinders, missing opportunities that don’t seem to be tied to journalism.

  14. After all, if job prospects are dim for everyone, you might as well study whatever you like.
    No chance of getting a job, might as well borrow lots of money.

  15. It would be nice to get education for education sake but one needs money to eat and have shelter
    Your better off with no education at all, how are you going to pay off those loans with no income?
    When the day comes (and i do hope it does) that you can get an education at a fair price and your not risking your future by doing so then you should do what the author suggests

  16. “50% of people age 15-24 don’t have a job, therefore the job prospects for a queer history degree and an engineering degree are equally poor.”

    Is this seriously the premise for your article? Do I even need to explain how ludicrous this is? I guess I do.

    a) 15-20 year olds don’t have university degrees.
    b) Many 21-24 year olds haven’t yet finished undergrad.
    c) Many 15-24 year olds don’t have any kind of degree.
    d) Many more “soft” degrees in the arts, humanities, and soft sciences are awarded than in disciplines with “hard” employable skills such as engineering and computer science.

    It’s completely insane to suggest that a queer history degree is as employable as an engineering degree. Look up the relevant numbers. Anecdotally, I know around 20 people with “hard skill” degrees, and not a single one of them is unemployed currently.

    There’s nothing wrong with wasting your time getting an arts degree. There is something wrong, however, with expecting that obtaining that degree has been anything more than a waste of time.

Sign in to comment.