Sunday, July 29, 2012

Worthless by Aaron Clarey: A Book Review

     One of the most intense discussions that I've had with young people is the problem of education, its value, and its relevance to being a productive man or woman.  One of the happiest days of my life was when I left college and went out at started my life outside of the school system.  I had no degree but I was well-read and I just couldn't afford to sit in a classroom while the world was passing me by; I wanted to work and make money.  I wanted to find a wife and have a family.  Worthless: The Young Person's Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major  
     "Worthless" is one of those books that I wish was written when I went to college in the late sixties.  If this book was available then, I would certainly have made some better choices in my major.  Aaron Clarey pulls no punches about how useless many of the liberal arts majors are and he makes some great suggestions as to how to make intelligent choices.
     What stood out to me was his explanation of the basic economics of paying for a college education and the potential return the student may get back in terms of getting a good job, paying back the loans, and improving one's marketability.  If the student doesn't choose the right major, then he has the potential of  having a worthless degree that won't get him a good job, but also, will struggle to pay back any of the student loans.
     What is happening now is that a lot of students are graduating with degrees that do nothing to help them get a meaningful job.  But the reality is that many of these students are still living with their parents because they can't find anything in their field.  So there are many college graduates working for minimum wage because there are just not enough good jobs.  Here is a list of some worthless degrees:
  • International Studies
  • Sociology
  • Non-Profit Administration
  • African Studies
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Elementary Education
  • Art and Architectural History
  • Masters in Puppetry
     In my case I studied Political Science, which is one of the most worthless degrees one could ever get.  It is almost as useless as "Masters in Puppetry."  In any economy there has to be a demand for a product or service.  If there is no demand for people with degrees in these subject matters, then there are going to be no jobs.  Again, supply and demand is the measure young people should look at before choosing their majors.  Clarey covers the discrepancy between what level of income students expect, and the errors they made in choosing a major.

     The majors that actually will produce good incomes and jobs for the students are:
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Math
    Now I'm not great at math, but if I had another chance at education, this is where I would put my focus.  I would probably go for computer science, since I like to work with them.  But in the late sixties, we didn't have much of that.  However, even back then, they had most of the worthless degrees Clarey speaks of that were hardly ever relevant to the career choice.  Clarey goes even further to explain that majors such as Environmental Engineering are worthless because the science is based upon a political agenda.  Very few companies need environmental engineers yet the colleges offer it and it is a waste of money.
    Since I've been critical of the banking system, I was highly amused at his criticism of bankers who were "too lazy to go into engineering, let alone accounting, but still wanted to make a ton of money."  He then describes them as corrupted with no morals.  And that's how most people perceive bankers, lawyers, politicians, and other miscreants.
     What I found surprising in this book is that he describes the major of Business Administration as  essentially worthless.  Clarey gives the example of a possible graduate making an application: "I  have no experience and no skills, but I read about a lot of businessmen at school."  Businessmen are not all college grads.  They learn business by doing it, starting from the bottom and working their way up.  All business owners want good people to work for them, and as a former business owner, I wanted people with some experience.  If I hired a college grad I would still have to train him in the position.  The degree doesn't help if I want results right away.  Clarey makes the same point.
     He also covers the non value of masters degrees in Business that adds nothing to the marketability of the graduate.  Let's say the MBA graduates with $100,000.00 debt, it is going to take him a long time to pay that off.  So a college student should count the cost and make sure he is receiving value for the money spend on education.
     Another problem he points out that the MBA is usually just another "regurgitation of classes."  These usually arise in "leadership" classes which most students already know, but they paid a lot of money to get a useless education.
    In one of his chapters called: "Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me?" he cover how some students, after going through all of this trouble find it extremely difficult to find meaningful work.  He points out the fact that the colleges and universities (many controlled by government) do little to inform their students of the value vs. the expense of a degree.  If a student pays $35,000 for a degree only to get a minimum wage job, then he has not received value for his money.  And of course, being a young person, he relies on the counselors who work at the college to tell him what he should do.  The problem is that there is a great conflict of interest in that the colleges have to fill up those classes to justify hiring a professor in the useless subject matter.  So the colleges take advantage of young people to fill up their stupid classes which produce no jobs save for the faculty.  The corruption in the education system far exceeds anything else; Clarey calles it "Big Education."
     One of my pet peeves was the idea of taking classes I had in high school again because I needed a "well rounded" education.  To me that was complete nonsense as I needed skills to get a job.  I was so anxious to go out and work that I couldn't bear another day in class.  Going to class seemed to give me a false sense of security from what I really should have been doing.  In short, in my opinion, the skills pay the bills.
    Here, I'll give a free economics lesson: buy low; sell high; and the rest is just technique.  That's how it really works.  Your opportunity for success is to make sure your major is favorable to you within the supply and demand area.  
     Another myth that  Clarey uses is: "A Bachelor's Degree is Just to Get in the Door" and this was problematic for me because I felt that I was going to be limited in making money and that I would somehow be some kind of low-life for not having a degree.  This may have been true in the past but it is no more.  The reality for me was that I received all kinds of skills in various industries, and each one helped me to get the next better job.  I did work for myself mostly, but the skills I received from hourly positions helped me to learn how to make money.  I never would have learn any of it in college.
    Clarey then finishes off his book stating that it is incumbent on the student to choose the proper major so that he is not a drag on society.  Nothing is worse to Clarey than having a student get a degree in a worthless subject, and then get a teaching job so he can teach the same worthless subject to other hapless students so that they too can get a worthless degree.
     I know that if I had read this book before going to college or a university, I would seriously consider my options.  I would choose a major that would make me more marketable to more companies.  When it comes to a career, money is very important in order to provide for a family.   
After reading this book, I would have chosen none of the classes that I took in college.
      This book was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Related:
Value of Education
Make Your Own Future


Walter Allen Thompson has a new book called Natural Law: The True Supreme Law of the Land

4 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 30, 2012

    Hello Walter,
    I made this observation 35 plus years ago and raised my kids to be in business for themselves and live debt free. They listened and are reaping the rewards of no debt eg.house paid for (I didn't help out), and a very reasonable income to boot. Even way back there, "well educated"(B.A., M.A.etc.)people were driving taxi. People rarely do their homework on this or the math.
    David

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  2. Hi Allen,

    I figured this out at 13 years of age(1971). From then on I refused to do my school work, nevertheless I graduated with honors. In college, more busy work courses. Few if any students questioned the value of the course work. I saw that even scientific research was corrupted and that the only jobs available were for big corporations whose only purpose was to turn a profit. So I dropped out of college and became a professional sheep shearer and that was a lot more fun and better paying than a desk job.

    Since then I have learned that medicine and psychology have been corrupted by big pharm. Even "economics" is worse than useless, just because they teach something they call "economics" does not make it economics. Economics grads leave college less competent than when they entered.

    However economics is the King of all subjects, real economics-not what is taught in Harvard or anywhere else anymore. Real economics can be understood better than what any Ph.D can present in a single booklet called "So you want to learn about economics?" by Lyndon LaRouche. $15 for a better understanding than a Ph.D, that is a bargain.

    The question to ask: Does this course make me better or a more productive person? Sorry to say most college courses don't pass this question.

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    Replies
    1. My view on economics is buy low, sell high...and the rest is just technique. The best learning experience is on the job training.

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  3. What happens if I get into top university for subjects like politics, philosophy,psychology or economics and low ranked one for engineering? which one will yield better output? won't the name of ivies/oxbridge sell to earn back the invested money? Can someone help?

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