What Would Samuel Johnson Think of Today's Western Education?
By Staff News & Analysis - June 03, 2011

Study Tells Students What Their Major is Worth … The choice of undergraduate major in college is strongly tied to a student's future earnings, with the highest-paying majors providing salaries of about 300 percent more than the lowest-paying, according to a study released Tuesday. Based on first-of-its-kind Census data, the report by Georgetown University in Washington also found that majors are highly segregated by race and gender. College graduates overall make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only high school diplomas, the study said. But further analysis of 171 majors shows that various undergraduate majors can lead to significantly different median wages. – AP

Dominant Social Theme: Education is a ticket to making a living and is best for aspiring wage earners.

Free-Market Analysis: Samuel Johnson is one of our all-time favorite literary people. He was truly a curmudgeon with a proverbial heart of gold. He wasn't a great poet in our humble opinion because he never entirely found his voice, which was mordantly humorous and irrepressibly aggressive. Ironically, the person who found Johnson's voice for him was James Boswell, and in his Life of Johnson, he presented Johnson to us in all his magnificent and flawed humanity. It is surely one of the greatest books ever written and perhaps the greatest biography.

What is the point of this "soft lede?" It is only to suggest that if someone explained to Johnson that the purpose of an education was to generate "future earnings," he probably would have provided posterity with another one of his dazzling, angry witticisms. It is true that Johnson is famous for saying that ""no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money …" but this is different than putting a specific dollar value on an education in order to determine what "major" to choose.

Johnson would surely have found it baffling if someone had asked him to forego Latin or Greek to study the mechanics of shipping or even the art of goldsmithery. Johnson, a huge and puffing man with irredeemable twitches and grimaces, was in love with words and with poetry. That is where he intended to make his mark and he never wavered, even though his poetry might not have produced all the results he sought.

Johnson is dead; he might have had some difficulty with the modern day and with what his much beloved Britain has turned into. It is altogether a socialist exercise and Johnson famously hated "levelers." One thing Johnson was not great at was being politically correct. He was seemingly constitutionally incapable of lying about the most important things.

Boswell, for all his mewling flattery, understood this perfectly. They were such wonderful men, badly injured by life and yet still incapable of anything but the highest aspirations. Boswell, an uncontrollably lewd drunkard (today we might call him a sex addict) wrote one of the world's great work of arts. Johnson, a twitching, gruff shipwreck who tended to list when he walked, wrote the world's first dictionary by himself. (He also tended to house and feed the indigent, lame and ill even though he often lacked funds himself.)

How much has changed since then! Boswell spent most of his life chasing conversation with great men for the sake of his further education – an ephemeral sort of career indeed. Johnson spent years writing a dictionary without being sure of any compensation. Today, these two men would be counseled to chart a different course through life's rocky shoals. Today, had they gone to university, they would have spent a good deal of time smoking marijuana (Boswell anyway) and the rest of their educational "experience" would have involved imbibing the kind of socialist claptrap and fear-based promotions the Anglo-American elites have spent a century injecting into the West's larger curriculum.

Yes, the Anglosphere elites have been anxiously degrading education for at least the past century in our view through the judicious application of Money Power; the result, as the 21st century gradually unwinds, is increasingly the presentation of a dominant social theme that equates an education directly with a dollar amount. In the modern era, millions of potential undergraduates have been instructed to see an education this way. And this AP article (see excerpt above) provides us with a good example of this perspective.

It is relentlessly practical for one thing – almost to the point of absurdity. Petroleum engineering majors make about $120,000 a year, it informs us, compared with $29,000 annually for counseling psychology majors. Math and computer science majors earn $98,000 in salary while early childhood education majors get paid about $36,000. "It's important that you go to college and get a (bachelor's degree), but it's almost three to four times more important what you take," said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce. "The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money." Here's some more from the article:

Still, Rachel Brown, director of the career center at Temple University in Philadelphia, noted that the average person changes careers three to five times in a lifetime. And while median salary is certainly something students should be aware of, it shouldn't be the deciding factor, she said. "Take that into consideration, but look at the whole picture," Brown said. "What are you doing every day? What are the job responsibilities? What are the values of the occupation in general? Advancement potential?"

Answering those kinds of questions is how Drexel University junior Meaghan Donchak chose her major of corporate communication and public relations. Donchak, 22, of East Windsor, N.J., said she knew her strengths were reading, writing and communicating. But even after settling on public relations, her own research showed such work at nonprofits paid less than corporate or government work, and she adjusted her track accordingly. Donchak hopes her career will allow her to travel, meet people and live comfortably.

The Georgetown study found communications and journalism majors earn $50,000 annually, rising to $62,000 with a graduate degree. "The most important thing is not the money. It's really hard to convince people of that, especially people our age," Donchak said. "It's doing what you love to do. You don't want to wake up every day dreading going to work.

Now it would be our belief that neither Boswell or Johnson dreaded going to work. But on the other hand, we doubt either of them would have lasted long in corporate public relations. We have written in the past on the collapsing economy of the West and its elements of Dreamtime. From our humble point of view, much of what passes for a career nowadays is unfortunately wrapped round a bevy of elite memes.

There are plenty who might take offence at such a suggestion, but we stand by the statement. Surely what has happened to education cannot be a coincidence. If one wants to teach (we wrote about this yesterday) one ends up instructing children about the benefits of regulatory democracy. If one wants to practice science, one will be encouraged to take up environmental science and specialize in global warming. If one wants to be a doctor, it will be necessary to practice good relations with pharmaceutical companies.

Education is not just about making a living! It is about aspiring to do something noble with one's life; something that advances the human conversation and enriches people's lives by showing them how they can fulfill their own hopes and dreams. (Sometimes just by example.) More than this, today's education is based on surges of fiat money that create in people ideas of white-collar employment opportunities that in reality – and in future – may not exist. Just because the elites can print enough money to create whole new industries that last only a few years, doesn't mean that one can build a career around them.

This article is actually a perfect fusion of two memes. The first is that education is a dollar-denominated activity. The second is that those majors that ARE offered are in fields that actually have a chance of sustaining themselves. Both of these may be a sort of wishful thinking.

Is the West's faux-civil society beginning to collapse, at least partially because of what we call the Internet Reformation? If so, much may change over the next years, including the idea of what constitutes a career – and even what constitutes modern civilization. What good is literacy when it spawns a militaristic society that uses this ability to spread Anglo-American authoritarianism around the world; what good is an education if you are in some sense contributing to your own enslavement? The West can be considered literate but its oppressions run far deeper in our view.

After Thoughts

Perhaps the best thing to do at this point would be to apprentice oneself to a trade and then chart the course of the autodidact on one's own. (We have seen more and more suggestions along this line lately, and earlier too; John Updike was famously in favor of self-teaching.) With the Internet does one really need to spend four-years in a university spending tens of thousands of dollars for careers that may vanish with the next financial collapse? Just askin' …

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