Fact Checking Marco Rubio’s criticism of philosophy

Politicians from Cruz to Obama have been hard on liberal arts majors of late.  The idea they are peddling is that it is a bad idea to major in a liberal art – and to use public dollars to support people doing so – since these are not useful degrees in the job market.  So a lot of the old “degrees to nowhere” business.

Last night at the debate, Marco Rubio took a shot at philosophers in particular, saying, “Welders make more money than philosophers.  We need more welders than philosophers.”

I thought it would be worth fact checking this claim.  Two sources:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for welders is $37,420.  The median wage for philosophy instructors is $63,630.

According to pay scale.com, the mid-career average salary of a person who majored in philosophy (but is not necessarily a philosophy instructor) is $85,000.  (This excludes philosophy majors who went on to any sort of graduate school like law or a PhD, many of whom are likely to be making more than folks with just a bachelors).  Payscale.com did not provide a mid career earning for welders, but says that total earnings for welders ranges from $26,000 to $63,000.  So even if we assumed that by mid career all welders are making the highest end salary in their industry, they are making less than your average philosophy major.

So fact checking Rubio’s claim: Rubio is simply wrong.

Sadly, most of our politicians on both the left and the right simply do not understand the value of a liberal education and do not know what sorts of skills (“soft skills”, communication and critical thinking skills) are most valued in the 21st century job marketplace.

Author: Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

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