OTHER VOICES

The value of a degree

Posted Oct. 30, 2011, at 8:02 p.m.

A staple of society’s legends is the Ph.D. waiter, or the poet slinging hash at the diner. As with most legends, there is more than a little truth to it.

But if you or someone you know is in that unenviable position, we hope nobody succumbs to the temptation of saying “what’s the use?” of higher education.

After a decade of discussion of the future of American society, the idea of the “creative class” pushed most prominently by University of Toronto professor Richard Florida has been a focus of leaders interested in expanding economies .

The general idea is that the class of those working with knowledge is the growth sector of the future economy. That idea has received some pushback in the wake of the devastating financial crisis of 2008.

Even some Wall Streeters might well be taking jobs they’d have sneered at before then. Financial services jobs in New York City have been among the losing job categories.

It’s a tough market if one does not have some advanced training, such as a community college certification. College graduates suffer, too, but not in the numbers of those without sheepskins.

So there is a lot to be said for sheepskins, even as many of us have been sheared by the job losses since 2008.

It’s not simply a matter of saying that a master’s degree in anthropology is no longer relevant to an individual, or to society, because of a short-term job deficit.

The vital importance of higher education cannot be lost in today’s downturn.

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. (Oct. 27)

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