21 June 2017

How to make a small fortune

It's the lede for an old joke: how do you make a small fortune? The punchline is "take a large fortune and buy an X", where X might be vineyard, sailboat, whatever. Increasingly it seems, that X might be "college education". Now, I'm no college hater -- I'm that particular kind of masochist that soldiered on through grad school to PhD, and in the process may have burned a few dollars in opportunity cost, but I was getting paid to do research in science and happened to learn a few empirically verifiable items along the way. Fortunately for me, the rise of the "studies" major, while certainly present, had not reached its apparent ubiquity, voice, and venom. The problem with "studies" majors is that they are based upon subjective material that's validated in a closed loop of like-minded "academics" which makes any criticism impossible, because if you disagree, you simply don't understand. I am not the only person to make this observation.

The problem lies not so much that they exist -- certain academics will do whatever -- but that they consume (lots of) money to indoctrinate students into a fantasy world mythology, leaving them four (or five (or six (or more))) years later with a mountain of debt and no practical skills or insight into how the real world actually works and how it got the way it is. This most certainly *not* a critique of history, or philosophy, or English majors, which are grounded in the actual world and its experience, though I would caution kids to select these sorts of majors carefully. For those for whom it's a good fit, they can be very rewarding and edifying, and I'd recommend them for consideration of a double major, preferably complementing physics (I am biased). We don't need everyone to be, nor should everyone be, a physics major, major in STEM, etc., but they shouldn't major in "shit people just make up".

Not only are many "studies" majors bogus, they're dangerously anti-social and destructive. Depending on where you fit in the intersectionality hierarchy of oppression, you are simply not able to understand anything related to people in other locations in the hierarchy. If understanding is impossible, then discussion is useless, and there can be no "solution", though it seems some people think revolution is an option.

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