What’s a degree?

Don’t ask me.

I saw another interesting video today. It was of Sir Ken Robinson, speaking at a TED event in 2006. You can see it here. It’s a funny and heart-warming talk, in which Sir Ken talks about our current education system, and how it’s only really designed to produce academics. He also considers how education has been diluted, as of late. Everyone now has a degree, and a degree isn’t worth as much now as it was some time ago. Most importantly, he talks about the educational hierarchy (sciences, before humanities, then arts) and how children are discouraged from studying what they’re really passionate about, because what these children are passionate about is not seen as a ‘real’ subject. As an English graduate, I couldn’t agree more.

I really, really enjoyed my time studying English. I honestly feel that I couldn’t have chosen a better degree. In terms of a degree choice in the context of the entire educational hierarchy, however, it wasn’t looked upon that highly within other disciplines, or by my peers studying those disciplines. I knew that it was a brilliant degree, and so did those studying and teaching it. In my last year, especially, we were inundated with lectures on how we could promote, or ‘pimp’ our skills to employers. We did our very best, short of taking our pants off and wearing them on our heads, while shouting through a megaphone that we were all extremely talented individuals, to try and get this message across. In some cases, it worked, and a great many of my friends from the course have either gone into employment or training. Many of us, however, including myself, have gone into further education, potentially highlighting the diminished value of an undergraduate degree in this day and age.

My parents were, gladly, very supportive of my wish to study English, but I know that this is not something shared by other parents. Even so, this hierarchical behemoth still affected, in some way, my decision to study marketing at postgraduate level. When I decided that I wanted to work in the marketing/advertising/communications industry, I spent a considerable amount of time trawling job sites and graduate schemes, and what I found was that getting into marketing (ignoring the advertising/communications) demanded a degree in a business-related subject for them to even consider you. I had no chance, with my English degree. I ask you, what would the fact that I have an English degree have to do with a failure to perform, or possess the necessary requirements for a career in marketing? Indeed, it does imply that I enjoy thinking creatively, but it certainly does not mean that I can’t think logically. On the contrary, it’s essential for English students to think logically too. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t ‘crunch numbers’, although it is my personal opinion that marketing should be less time spent with numbers, and more time spent with people. Is this unfair? I admit that some, career-specific degrees are needed to procure employment in some professions (medicine, etc.), but that’s a strict minority.

I hate this wraith of educational bigotry, and feel that it definitely contributes to what I’d like to refer to as ‘skill bias’. More than that, as the video states (you should really watch it; it’s great), who says you have to be ‘good’ at school, to be bright, or intelligent? I wasn’t ‘good’ at school, and it’s done me well, thus far. Other than denying me the right to apply for various jobs/making me a generally unattractive option to employers/making me feel stupid. That’s a completely different blog, though, and I shall leave it for another day.

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