In the fourth GOP debate, presidential candidate Marco Rubio stated, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
Being a popular candidate for moderates within the GOP, his sufficient oratorical skills and the general philosophy of the GOP electorate, he drew a large response from the audience and became the sound bite highlight of the circus that is the ‘GOP debate’, which is looking more like a bunch of teenagers in a group chat roasting one another then a presidential debate.
Although there are nuances between Canada and the United States in terms of the labour force and public perception of prosperity, his quote leaves opportunity to discuss various notions on post-secondary education, stigmatization of vocational training and the interactions of the two alike.
Rubio is right in denouncing the flawed public perception of tradespeople. Our society perceives University degree holders to be higher on the social hierarchy as opposed to tradespeople. We have stigmatized vocational training (Rubio’s words) and many think that the only way for a respectable career is through university. As a result, more and more people are pursuing university, shown through rising enrolment rates (our university included). This demand for post-secondary education has even affected master’s programs, where the value of a master’s has been steadily decreasing due to increase in supply. It goes without saying that university education is extremely valuable for personal and societal development. Higher education is the main platform for escaping poverty, research and development and a bastion of high thinking. However, superiority that some carry about having a degree and the stigma one carries for those who pursue trades is flawed and wrong. The type of your education shouldn’t define your value to society- and we shouldn’t confine ourselves to perceived social hierarchies where a piece of paper illuminates the one’s drive, character and potential.
However, Rubio’s thinking illustrates another glaring flaw within our societal line of thinking. Rubio stated that because welders make more money than philosophers, we should have more welders. Although he placed more emphasis on the stigmatization of vocational training and disproving that notion, his quote nonetheless embodies the societal norm of measuring the merits of a career is through monetary considerations. This notion trickles down, naturally, to university students. When examining the merits of a degree, one of our primary criteria is job prospects and compensation. We must step away from solely measuring the contribution of someone’s career through compensation and focus it more on the content of one’s work, societal impact, and the difference one makes for stakeholders around them. This way, we can mitigate the inherent traits of envy and greed, while shifting the focus on the true content of one’s contributions.
In an ever-evolving, technological and globalized world, collaboration has become a key for all people. What it all boils down to is that we should not place value on vocational training nor post-secondary education based on relative terms. The merits of each cannot be measured against each other, and should definitely not be defined solely through the monetary considerations. Instead, we must look to collaborate between each pursuit and eliminate stigmas, stereotypes and egotistical superiority complexes to ensure improvement on how people view one another.