A Worthwhile Degree

Part of the current right-wing sneering about the student loan relief program that the President is setting up has to do with hard-working tax-payers being forced to finance “worthless” things like philosophy degrees. As one who worked toward two such “worthless degrees”, I am a living example of how short-sighted that view is.

My undergraduate degree was in motion-picture and television studies, which might indeed sound to the faux-utilitarians on the right as nothing more than the pop-culture version of an art history degree (a degree often ridiculed as among the most worthless).

My graduate work was in English literature, another degree often excoriated as an effete indulgence by those who think a college degree should prepare you for a real job, dammit.

Except that my college work in two worthless fields did just that. As part of my literary studies I took a course in computerized textual analysis. That led me to a good paying job programming software for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Deep Space Network. Where, by the way, my literary studies also came in handy for helping me craft solidly written and persuasive memos and reports—I became my team’s go-to guy for responding to problematic directives from the higher-ups.

And my film degree? That helped me in my next job, developing instructional videos and software for university composition courses at UCLA.

All my worthless academic work, film and literary studies, came in handy for my next job, when I went to work at the Voyager Company, developing interactive media and helping to create the first widely distributed ebooks, the Voyager Expanded Books.

In short, my worthless film degree and graduate literary studies resulted in well-paying jobs and allowed me to contribute to new economic enterprises: instructional technology and interactive media. I hear there’s lots of money to be made in both those fields.

I managed to pay off my student loans myself, but even if the government had paid them all off for me it would have gotten much more than its money’s worth from its investment in my “worthless” degrees.

So stop the sneering: you never know where even the most useless or obscure college studies might lead.

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