Money, prestige poor career rewards

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

As I begin what may or may not be my last semester of college for awhile, I think about a recent Time magazine article I read titled “Liberal Arts vs. Business Degrees.”

The article states that more American students are opting for so called “easy” degrees in the liberal arts rather than more challenging, more in-demand and perhaps better-paying careers in business, math and the sciences. According to this article, students are opting for these “creative” careers out of laziness rather than utilizing their brain cells to solve the world’s problems and be more competitive with Chinese students who outpace Americans in academics.

I agree that video games and even the format of our media, which contributes to smaller attention spans, have contributed to the so-called “dumbing down of America.” I’m also troubled by the fact that people are reading less and are satisfied with the small snippets of news we get rather than demanding more in-depth news coverage.

However, as a graduate student about to complete a master’s degree in one of the liberal arts in December, I object to the notion that a liberal arts degree is “taking the easy way out.”

I consider myself to be a creative person and that has its good and bad points. I’ve always struggled when it comes to math and science and have learned the hard way how to balance my checkbook, manage my finances and stick to a budget. And soon to have a master’s degree in communication, my mom also enjoys pointing out to me on occasion that I seem to be lacking in the area of common sense.
So I have a few screws loose. Don’t all geniuses?

Not really, I’m anything but a genius, and I know that having an advanced degree will not make me any better than a person without a college education. Also, I believe it’s not so much that piece of paper you earn in college that matters as much as what you do with that piece of paper. And while I won’t argue that we do need more scientists and mathematicians, we also need our creative folks. We need our engineers and rocket scientists, but we also need people who can put together a proper sentence and write intelligently.

While I can easily write a research paper, I know some people with my level of education who cannot even put together a decent sentence. Turning that around though, while writing is my specialty, I would have trouble passing a basic algebra class; therefore, it would be disastrous for someone like me to pursue a career in engineering.

Instead of saying that us creative folks are taking the easy way out, I would also argue there’s nothing wrong with choosing personal happiness over money. I considered more lucrative careers, but again, what’s more important, job security and salary or following your heart?

I watched the movie “Accepted” last weekend about a high school graduate who starts his own college when he cannot find a school to accept him. As outlandish as the movie was, it sent some thought-provoking messages about our educational system. The movie challenged the conventional definition of “higher education” as this fictional college offered classes like “Slacking 101,” “Skateboarding” and “Walking Around and Thinking About Stuff.”

I’m not knocking the value of a higher education. I remind my 16-year-old daughter Laura of the value of a college education almost every day. And while I agree that students, including myself, need to challenge ourselves more because our society as a whole has started to slack off, I believe we should also step back and look at the even bigger picture.

We should not chose our careers in terms of marketability, potential income or global competitiveness, but in terms of how we can make this world a better place when we leave. When all is said and done, we can’t take anything we worked so hard for with us. All we can do is leave a legacy.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: