It’s a rather ironic turn for a man with a degree in philosophy, but Rishi Sunak has declared open war on ‘low-earning’ degrees.
The candidate for leader of the Conservative Party in the UK and would-be prime minister, wants to phase out university degrees that do not improve a graduate’s earning potential.
It could mean that subjects like art, drama and humanities are potentially on the block in the UK.
Weirdly, when taking a scythe to degrees that yield low salaries, Sunak has vowed to make an exception for nursing degrees and courses with “high social value”, which probably speaks more of a need to pay these people more.
But anyway, back to the beleaguered arts degree.
The problem with doing away with arts degrees is you do away with English, social studies, geography, French and history degrees.
Ergo, you do away with English, social studies, geography, French and history graduates, who might well be the best people around to teach… well, English, social studies, geography, French and history in schools.
Like a great many people in Ireland, I spent three years ‘swanning about’ on an arts degree at Maynooth University. It was certainly not one of the ‘big ticket’ degree choices on that year’s CAO — if anything, arts was the back-up plan, the degree you did when you had absolutely no idea what you wanted to do after school.
Most of us had the likes of dentistry, medicine, law or veterinary science as our main degree choices.
Perhaps the practical influence of school still loomed large. Maybe we figured we’d push ourselves off the block with a high-status degree that would increase our own career prospects.
Back then, learning more and developing critical thinking were probably low down on our list of post-school priorities.
It was only years later that I realised I’d gone to a school where most of the energies and attentions weren’t ever really trained on creating well-rounded or well-read pupils, but ‘the points’.
We talked extensively in class about how to do exams, how to beat the Leaving Cert ‘system’, and what to do on the day we sat down to that fateful exam.
By the time I got to university, I noticed I’d be trained to the back teeth to take on a state exam, but there were a number of holes in my overall education.
It took a sociology degree to introduce me to the likes of capitalism, Freud, feminism, multiculturalism, political ideas, Northern Irish politics and social policy.
Would I have read medieval literature, postcolonial literature, war writing and 16th century theatre without taking an English degree? Probably not.
And while getting through a John Milton poem may not sound like a useful skill to acquire in this life, the arts degree itself was invaluable.
Most of my memories from college were made beyond the lecture theatre and had less to do with the acquiring of knowledge than, say, playing Scrabble in the Student’s Union.
Still, I somehow learned to write, to research, to do presentations, to develop critical thinking.
If Sunak gets his way on the phasing out of arts and humanities degrees, the UK will be a much less culturally and socially rich place for it.
Sure, we need scientists, medics and engineers to keep the world turning. As for those who can stand back and look at the human condition in its entirety — the world needs these people just as much.
Two days after reportedly welcoming her newborn son via surrogate, Khloé Kardashian headed out to dinner at Nobu in Los Angeles looking like nobody’s idea of a new mother.
Wearing what the tabloids inform us was a “dazzling, form-fitting black dress”, Khloé certainly looked impeccable and stress-free.
In fairness, I couldn’t help but think of my own bedraggled state when my daughter was two days old. I was still in the maternity hospital for a start, out of my mind with sleeplessness, cracking up at the sound of a half-dozen babies crying, hormonally askew, grappling with breastfeeding and looking for all the world like a sweaty cabbage in a dressing gown.
In amongst the anxiety, the tears and the culture shock, yes, there was excitement and the high of a whole new love.
When I saw Khloé head to dinner with seemingly not a care in the world and the confidence of a woman who has left her two-day-old child in the best care money can buy, I was initially a little envious.
Motherhood leaves your ‘old’ life effectively in tatters. How lovely it must be to carry on, in some ways, as normal.
And yet, I felt sorry for her in that she was spending those incredible first few hours in the company of friends and an overpriced sushi platter.
The moments when your baby is two days old may be hectic, but they’re also beautiful. Nobu will always be there, but Khloé will never get that time back.
Author/speaker Malcolm Gladwell talked recently about not being a fan of working from home.
“It’s not in your best interest to work at home,” he says. “I know it’s a hassle to come to the office, but if you’re just sitting in your pyjamas in your bedroom — is that the work life you want to live?”
Worth pointing out that Gladwell has had the luxury of choice and has written most of his books on the “sofa”.
Truly, these are the words of a man who has never had to juggle and multitask, and still probably doesn’t know the benefits of sticking a wash on during lunchtime.