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Guest Editorial:Can a career be found at the Career Fair?

The selling of the student body began last week, with the coming and eventual passing of another Career Fair. This event, occurring yearly, brings together a motley assortment of employers and other interested parties to make their pitch to students and allow all those interested to speak to potential employers. Officially billed as an excellent networking opportunity – especially for those students nearing graduation – the Career Fair marks the pinnacle of the awkward logic that has both given birth to our particular institution (a regional, special purpose teaching university) and continues to drive government policy toward post-secondary institutions to our collective detriment.

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by Jack Brown (Distribution Specialist)

The selling of the student body began last week, with the coming and eventual passing of another Career Fair. This event, occurring yearly, brings together a motley assortment of employers and other interested parties to make their pitch to students and allow all those interested to speak to potential employers. Officially billed as an excellent networking opportunity – especially for those students nearing graduation – the Career Fair marks the pinnacle of the awkward logic that has both given birth to our particular institution (a regional, special purpose teaching university) and continues to drive government policy toward post-secondary institutions to our collective detriment.

I do not begrudge all those employers who set up booths or even necessarily those students who attended. Who wants a well paying job? Most people, especially if it is the sort of work one’s conscience is comfortable with. Indeed, even I myself attended in the hopes of finding some potential employer hitherto unknown to me who would fulfill all of my desires of providing me with an income. and economic meaning to my life. I wasn’t quite surprised when I discovered that no such employer was present (I guess booths were at a premium). Rather, I was simply left with the cold realization that the standard and ubiquitous argument for attending university was and continues to be a terrible fucking lie.

Many of us were told either explicitly or implicitly that a university degree was a necessity if we were to find a well paying job. Unfortunately, those people making that argument are so far removed from the contemporary university experience, not to mention the job market, that they have no idea what they are talking about. It was absolutely true that when many of our parents – boomers – went through their educational experience earning a bachelor’s degree in whatever was a ticket to a job, in whatever field of endeavour. But that is true no longer; no longer can you study English literature and find a job at a bank, or study biology and end up as an executive. Companies are loathe to conduct any training themselves anymore. Why pay to hire and train a philosophy graduate to read balance sheets and trade securitized mortgages when the newly minted BBA has already done so on the state’s dime?

Grade inflation has made most measures of academic performance even more meaningless than they were previously (which was a lot), while the credentialization of our culture has not resulted in a more thoughtful citizenry or public life, but instead more people who are good at sloganeering and spouting doctrinaire platitudes, all the while paying for the privilege of being able to cart around an increasingly meaningless degree. The current state of post-secondary education across most of the Western world is a complete clusterfuck, and with the current state of government finances and attitudes, it’s quite unlikely for that to change. We can look forward to the continued transformation of universities from centres of scholarship and teaching to brute training factories: consumer comes in, consumer goes out less some money and plus some sheepskin documents.

It was once said that Czechoslovakia had the most educated working class in the world. Because of communism, everyone was free to go on to higher education who had the interest and ability. But having not enough jobs for all of the graduates, many doctors or physicists were assigned important duties by the state, like street sweeping.

I wonder if we will soon have the least educated university graduates in the world. With no prospect of street sweeping, what does the future hold for me? Maybe I’ll find some answers at next year’s Career Fair.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jeff

    October 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I don’t think that anyone thinks a career in philosophy will get them a job. The running jokes is that a philosophy degree will enable you to make better conversation as you drive your cab around town. In terms of what you actually want to study though, why base it all on economic merit? To thine own self be true.

  2. Jack

    October 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    The study of philosophy, while certainly an end in itself, is also a fantastic means to an end. While perusing through various employer’s websites, I found very often that places were looking for individuals with strong analytic skills, or excellence in written and oral communication. Those sorts of traits are exactly what results from the serious study of philosophy.

    Clear thinking and awareness of the practices of good argumentation and transparent persuasion are not the luxuries of philosophy professors holed up at Corpus Christi College, Oxford – they are necessities both within and for our democracy but also for any kind of productive and profitable economic activity.

    The tension that is present in both government and industry expectations for graduates is palpable when they disparage or disregard individuals who have studied philosophy (or any other Humanities discipline which also imparts critical thinking) – they want excellent individuals who are fully rational and autonomous, but they don’t want to pay to train those individuals to carry out the basic and rudimentary tasks they are expected to do in their jobs. A university education ought not be brute job training, but that’s what it’s become and what employers now expect. It’s a perversion of what the role of the university has been throughout history, and there are wonderfully cogent arguments that can be made that by abdicating such responsibility our civil society is diminished in a very significant way.

    The actual state of affairs is definitely troubling, which I point out in the editorial, but what I find to be more bothersome is the fucking lie of eternal economic bliss for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree. If the government and industry aren’t interested in supporting education (as opposed to job training) then I would much prefer it if they dropped all pretensions to the contrary.

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