Apparently due to Boris, the debate over the value of a degree is raging again. Unsurprisingly, various sorts are criticising the value of ‘academic’ rather than ‘vocational’ degrees. Also unsurprisingly, they’re wrong.
Take classics. It’s the quintessentially-cited ‘nobody even speaks this, so what’s the point?’ language. But learning classics teaches you the foundations on which all European languages (OK, except Basque, Hungarian and Finnish) were built, introduces you to the beginnings of philosophy and human thought, and teaches you critical thinking.
The same goes for nearly all ‘academic’ subjects, right down to media studies. And as a result, for any role other than a golf-course manager, I’d infinitely rather employ a classicist (or an historian, or a philosopher) than someone with a degree in golf-course management.
Indeed, if I was looking for someone capable of shaping my golf course’s strategic growth rather than just keeping the greens green, I’d prefer a classicist to a golf-course manager even for that.
The point is that knowledge is trivially easy to acquire, and carries more or less no worth: anyone who knows how to think can learn any industry-specific skill in a trivial amount of time. But someone who’s spent three years studying facts but who can’t think will never learn how to – and if the first person takes the second person’s job, they’ll be better at it than them within months.
As a digression, the degree which surprises me the most that anyone ever does is accountancy. Why the hell would you waste your university time on a qualification that you could be paid Ã‚Â£25,000 a year plus all fees to take if you studied something more interesting and then worked for an accounting firm after graduating?
Disclaimers: I’m not a classicist, and I work for an accounting firm (not as an accountant, nor intending to become one…)