Is a GED better than a PhD?

I come from a family background that was conflicted on the question of education. On the one hand, my grandparents (who raised me from the time I was three) realized that whatever hope I was to have of a better life than they’d had hinged on school. As such, there was never a moment in my life, once I was old enough to grasp the concept of what school was, when I didn’t simply assume that I’d go to college.

Growing up, I understood that learning came first. My grandmother taught me to read when I was four, and by the time I entered first grade I was reading on the fourth grade level, at least. My grandfather taught me math, and when I was five I could do fairly complicated problem strings that included long division. If there was homework to do, that came before play, and it was made clear that if my grades ever slipped, I wouldn’t be allowed to play sports at all. If I made an A they were happy. If I made an A- they were rather pointed in wanting to know what had gone wrong. Bs were unacceptable, and if I’d made a C I simply wouldn’t have gone home.

On education, then, there was no compromise. Up to a point, that is.

A Frivolous Young Man

There came a time, not long after I entered Wake Forest University in August of 1979, when I began to learn things that troubled them. I hadn’t gone around the bend politically yet, so that wasn’t a huge problem, but religion certainly was. A number of things were happening around the same time.

  • Wake was in the process of divorcing the Southern Baptist Convention, and I had grown up Southern Baptist. Still was Southern Baptist, in fact. My church at the time was full of people with strongly held, if not entirely well-informed opinions, and my sense that the SBC (which had been making all the decisions but had only been paying 6% of the freight) was a rabid albatross flailing around the school’s neck was not uniformly popular back on the home front.
  • The SBC itself, which had historically been dominated by its “moderate” wing, was in the process of being sacked by its “conservative” wing. I knew we had sailed past the point of no return when I saw that Baylor University president Abner McCall – a man who struck me as politically somewhere to the right of Torquemada – was running for the organization’s presidency … as the moderate.
  • Since Wake was an outstanding Liberal Arts university with a bright, inquisitive student body, my mind was in the process of broadening, and doing so with a speed that scared the hell out of my grandparents. The course that I will always remember as the tipping point, the 15-week period where the conservative boy died and the free-thinking young man was born, was Old Testament. Having the facts of the OT set before me that way permanently killed off my ability to trust those who had taught me growing up. And lest you think that the professor, Dr. Hamrick, was some kind of wild-eyed pinko, it should be noted that he taught Sunday School at Wake Forest Baptist Church, which was an SBC member institution.

My grandfather (as well as my father, who lived nearby and still played a minor role in my life) had some firm ideas about education, though, and their devotion to it was not unconditional. Some things that you learned in school were useful, while some things were frivolous, if not outright false. The term for the latter was “book learnin’.” This was an epithet, to be sure, and while it may be possible to utter the term without sneering I never saw anyone around my house actually try.

Useful education was practical. My grandfather would say something to the effect that “an engineer can always find work,” although at that point I still didn’t have a firm grasp on what an engineer actually did. The fact that I attended a university with no engineering program didn’t help. My father’s dream was that I’d become a lawyer (which to him meant that he’d have lifetime access to free legal counsel) and that was my plan when I entered college. However, that idea died abruptly at 2:00 am one Sunday during my sophomore year as I was walking my girlfriend back to her dorm. It was located across the street from the law school, and a first floor study lounge faced the street. It was full of law students, seemingly buried beneath large books. To my youthful way of thinking, hard work was like a fight with the school bully. You don’t run from it, but you don’t go looking for it, either.

Once it became clear that I wasn’t going to be an attorney, it pretty much all became an exercise in frivolity for Dad.

My grandfather didn’t live to see me head off to Iowa State in 1987, where I was going to learn to be a professional poet and a professor thereof. My father did, though, and I’m almost certain that he never bragged about it when he and his buddies got together to drink and shoot pool.

Granddaddy wouldn’t have understood the poetry, I don’t think, although a part of him would have been proud that I had become the first in the family’s history to graduate from college. Neither he nor my grandmother could have ever dreamed that I’d go to graduate school. Had she lived to see me earn a PhD, I imagine Grandmother’s chest would have just about burst with pride. By then I had decided I was going to be a professor, and that would have been something that both she and Granddaddy would have valued because teaching was a noble profession.

America and the Useful Arts

So, as I say, the question of education was occasionally conflicted in the Smith household, and in so many ways we were archetypally American. As fate would have it, I wound up writing about the persistently utilitarian character of education in the US when it came time for my dissertation.

These ideologies powerfully informed the emerging American character, at once influencing cultural development and being reinforced by it. No institution was exempt from the technotopian dream. The nation’s teaching and research systems, for instance, were and still are dramatically influenced by a utopian faith in the transformational power of applied science. To be sure, America developed and nurtured some of the finest Liberal Arts schools in the world: we think immediately of private schools like Harvard, but some of these schools were publicly funded (like the University of North Carolina, the first state-sponsored university in the country). But while the society tolerated the belief in education for its own sake, it also invested more heavily in the idea of applied education than perhaps any culture in Western history. John Dewey, one of America’s most insightful commentators on education, justifies the utilitarian approach, arguing that science is only honorable in application.

Since “application” signifies recognized bearing upon human existence and well-being, honor of what is “pure” and contempt for what is “applied” has for its outcome a science which is remote and technical, communicable only to specialists, and a conduct of human affairs which is haphazard, biased, unfair in distribution of values…. Science is converted into knowledge in its honorable and emphatic sense only in application. Otherwise it is truncated, blind, distorted. When it is applied, it is in ways which explain the unfavorable sense so often attached to “application” and the “utilitarian”: namely, use for pecuniary ends to the profit of a few (Dewey Public and Its Problems 174).

He contends that the split between pure and applied science is artificial, with the result being a damaging application of science to human affairs instead of an integration within them. This “knowledge divided against itself” fuels the “enslavement of men, women and children in factories in which they are animated machines to tend inanimate machines.”

The glorification of “pure” science under such conditions is a rationalization of an escape; it marks a construction of an asylum of refuge, a shirking of responsibility. The true purity of knowledge exists not when it is uncontaminated by contact with use and service. It is a wholly moral matter, an affair of honesty, impartiality and generous breadth of intent in search and communication. The adulteration of knowledge is due not to its use, but to vested bias and prejudice, to one-sidedness of outlook, to vanity, to conceit of possession and authority, to contempt or disregard of human concern in its use (175-176).

The ultimate institutional expression of utilitarianism in American education is found in the Morrill Land Grant Act. The original Act of 1862 initiated a movement which saw a second Act in 1890 and 1994 legislation aimed at developing educational resources on Native American lands, and has to date resulted in the chartering of over a hundred public universities in all 50 states and several territories (USDA).

In more complex terms, the land-grant movement is the expression and diffusion of certain political, social, economic, and educational ideals. The motives typically attributed to the movement involve the democratization of higher education; the development of an educational system deliberately planned to meet utilitarian ends, through research and public service as well as instruction; and a desire to emphasize the emerging applied sciences, particularly agricultural science and engineering (Williams Origins of Federal Support 1).

The Land Grant movement’s ultimate goal, though, was far broader than the simple production of technically expert farmers and engineers. Its early supporters were intent on shaping these institutions into comprehensive centers devoted to “the liberal, scientific, and even civic education of well-rounded men and women” (Williams 7). Land-grant colleges and universities were designed to be closely connected to the daily life of the communities they served. The scholars produced by these schools were groomed to be productive and pragmatically-minded members and leaders of the society, and to that end the schools’ research missions were unambiguously utilitarian.

To put it a little more simply, in Europe there has always been a greater affection for what we might term “learning for its own sake.” In America, though, learning has to be practical. The rest is “book learnin’,” and in this formulation we have drawn a fairly succinct frame around our culture’s deeply ingrained anti-intellectualism.

GED vs PhD

Which brings me back around to my title. AlterNet recently offered us a story with a supremely antagonistic title: “Is a GED More Valuable Than a PhD?” It examines the case of a young woman who earned her PhD and now can’t find any work in her field. She’s thinking of taking a job that requires only a GED.

This is an ugly time for the highly learned in America, especially if they’ve been foolish enough to pursue an education in useless disciplines like Philosophy, History and English. (It’s not quite as desperate in the hard sciences, although it’s bad there, too.) There are few jobs, insane competition for the ones that do exist, and if you do manage to land a gig I hope you weren’t counting on a living wage, spare time, professional respect or future security. And as bad as it is, it’s only going to get worse.

Even if your PhD is in an area with direct and useful application to the professional world, as mine is, you quickly learn that all those letters after your name aren’t necessarily doing you any good. In the business world, way too many people think that “PhD” is an abbreviation for the Latin term meaning “egghead with a lot of book learnin’ who doesn’t have enough common sense to come in out of the rain.” The perception, all too often, is that the PhD can’t find a job in the academy and is desperately trying to find an income in the “real world,” where he or she frankly doesn’t belong. In some cases this is certainly true, but even where docs may not be ideally suited to the biz world, they probably represent considerably more mental horsepower than most of the people in the organization, and mental horsepower ought to be cherished in an environment where your success often hinges on out-thinking the competition.

I’m sure I’m not the only doc in America who has left that last line out of the education section on the résumé. And even when I don’t delete the PhD, it’s not something I make a big deal about. If it does come up in an interview, I make sure to explain that I was never a pure academic type to start with – I was always a “real world” guy first and foremost, pursuing the doc for a series of personal reasons, but always knowing that I was bound for the business world.

Welcome to America, a land where your professional prospects are advanced by underplaying your educational accomplishments.

So, is a GED better than a PhD? It’s bad enough that we live in a place where the question can even be posed. What’s worse is realizing that it’s a rhetorical question.

50 replies »

  1. “Book larnin'” had a slightly different twist where I grew up, about 30 miles north and maybe 80 miles east of you. It could be, and was, frequently applied to any educated person, in any field, who was wrong or perceived to be wrong. For example, a man who had studied agriculture at Virginia Tech plants based on weather reports. Most of the other farmers in the area plant based on the moon, their gut, or even the Farmer’s Almanac. Sure enough, the weather reports are wrong, and rain floods the educated farmer’s field, drowning his young shoots and forcing a replanting. One hears, everywhere one goes, about how that farmer has “book larnin'” but no common sense.

    Said educated farmer goes on to produce better-than-average yields every year, buys out failing farmers around him, and becomes one of the largest and most prosperous men in the county.

    No one thinks book larnin’ might have helped him in any way.

  2. Bless my mother and stepfather’s hearts. While it wasn’t all that much fun to go through the A is expected and everything else doesn’t really cut, they were committed to paying for me to get a university education (paying tuition, that is, i was expected to contribute to my upkeep).

    Without the future burden of student loans, i was able to get an education for the sake of an education…and i will always we thankful for that.

    But i’ve also been surprised at what i’ve learned through becoming an adoptive redneck (if liberal elitist redneck).

    What gets me is the number of people who have an “education” and still manage to be as dumb as a box of rocks and devoid of common sense. I think that there are a lot of people in universities that have no business being there.

  3. We as a country have downplayed the value of vocations, to our own detriment, I believe. Nobody wants their kid to grow up to be a plumber, but when the toilet backs up, or you want to build a new baseball stadium with more bathrooms than the old one, you sure do appreciate those guys (and gals).

    One of America’s real problems is we don’t produce enough stuff. We need to change our attitudes about career choices so that the young people see applied science as a noble profession.

  4. Bob, I agree with you that young people should see applied science as a noble profession. When In was in grad school (physical chemistry), we were looked down upon by the true intellectuals, who were the liberal arts crowd. It was a point of pride with them that they would never come over to the science buildings. We didn’t mind really, as the smart people migrated towards the physical sciences, and engineering. There was no BS’ing in a dissertation involving scientific research, and the committees were a real bitch.

    As for the vocations, since people don’t want to be plumbers, the scarcity allows them to charge high prices. I even cringe whenever I have to call the plumber who charges $60/hour plus parts and travel time.

    I do take exception with your mention that America doesn’t produce enough stuff. Despite the media portrayal of China being a manufacturing juggernaut, we still have a greater industrial output than they do according to the numbers. It’s just that all the “crap” you see is made in China.


    • …the smart people migrated towards the physical sciences, and engineering. There was no BS’ing in a dissertation involving scientific research, and the committees were a real bitch.

      Hard to imagine why they didn’t want to hang out with you. But you’re right about our diss process. At my defense we had a clown and a pony.

  5. I had lyin, stinkin rats at my defense. Of course, my defense was about spaceflight immunology and astronauts really don’t like it when you try to remove their spleens after they land.

    Jeff, speaking of “practical education,” I have a question for ya and I’m sure you know where to look to find the numbers. Do you have any idea how much money is spent on “entertainment” in this country, versus scientific development? I’d also be interested to know how much science R&D is developed in industry vs. academia.

    I suspect it’ll break down something like this: Entertainment is waaaay out ahead of science, and industry is way out in front of academia. However, if you track “useful output” (be it scientific discovery, education, or the next great american novel), I bet it is negatively correlated with the amount of funds allocated.

    Which, of course, seems totally backasswards to me.

  6. Define entertainment and I’ll get you the numbers.

    I’ll bet you’re right that it’s all bass ackwards.


  7. I was mostly thinking of pop music, television and movies, but I didn’t want to piss off the musician readers of this blog by lumping them together with Britney and Kelly Clarkson. Hahaha.

  8. I’ll dig them up and get back to you. An interesting thing that I dug up last week, in regards to your definition of entertainment, is that Americans spend more money each week on wireless communication(cell phones, etc.) than Hollywood makes in a year. That’s not including TV and radio.


  9. Or as my father would have put it, and often did… If sense were common, more people would have some.
    With the future of our planet being discussed as being in jeopardy, I would think not bailing out the car industry, and diverting all those funds to the establishment of space industry might be a far far greater thing to do. Or just buy out all the mortgages currently in existance, and let the consumers spend their own money and let the market decide?… But what do I know?

    lol’ing ur pols pho paws.

  10. Ubertramp:

    I believe this is a reasonably good definition of “entertainment”: Entertainment is an activity designed to give people pleasure or relaxation . An audience may participate in the entertainment passively as in watching opera or a movie, or actively as in games.

    I am highly, highly entertained by screaming down a snowy mountainside with waxed boards attached to my feet. I am entertained by reading a newspaper or this board. I am also entertained by taking a curve as quickly as I can in a nimble sports car. I suspect you’re right that untold trillions are spent on entertainment, but I suspect you won’t get a good number for exactly how much.

    As for industry being out ahead of academia on science, I rather doubt it, but it depends on how you look at it. Almost all science is built on likelihoods (“facts” if you prefer) from earlier research, right? So the actual value of research gets all mixed up in future effects. For instance, the entire Manhattan Project was funded by government, and to the best of my knowledge, all the prior research was academic. But what was the outcome? Nuclear bombs? Nuclear power? Greater knowledge in shaped explosive charges and precise electronic triggers? New technologies for exploring the quantum world?

    And what will come of all this? Quantum computers? Star travel? We don’t know.

    And what is private industry in this case? For instance, I’d bet that most pharmaceutical advances have come from private industry, but that’s because those advances are profitable, and they are profitable because society grants long-term patents and insurance mechanisms that allow non-competitive pricing, which is a sort of hidden tax. Or if you look at the Salk Vaccine, you could say that it was funded, mostly, but contributions, but those contributions were tax deductible, so it was at least partly funded by public money. And R&D expenditures in private industry are also tax-deductible.

    I could go on, but I think my point is pretty clear: There is no clear way to value entertainment, and no clear way to figure out what “science” is producing, all by itself, inside and outside the public/private sectors.

  11. And what will come of all this? Quantum computers? Star travel? We don’t know.

    Yes, we do – new kinds of porn. Duh.

  12. JSO, I guess my ultimate point was about the “value” of the degree. Let’s look strictly at salaries. I have a PhD and I work in academia. I bet my salary is about half what it would be if I worked in industry doing exactly the same thing (with, arguably, far less freedom). And even if I worked in industry, I’d be getting far less $$$ than, say, the producer/director/lead actors/SFX guys/etc. that put out the latest blockbuster. Yet, many of the people who did the latter could do it without even a BS, let alone a PhD. But which endproduct is more “important?” The movie, the drug, or the background research used to generate the drug?

    Here’s a related complaint. Iif I stayed in aerospace engineering (which is the field where I actually GOT my PhD) and worked in industry, a PhD would actually be a hindrance. I’d probably get much further with a BS or an MS.

    So, to answer Slammy’s question, yes. In certain situations, a GED is probably better than a PhD. The more educated you are, the less marketable you are.

  13. Ubertramp,

    My degree is in chemistry, which is a pretty worthless degree. However, I approached grad school as a way to prolong my childhood and have a little fun. If I had a PhD in chemical engineering or petroleum engineering, that would have been worth something as there’s still a market for those guys. Sometimes life takes you in different directions, and my direction is about as far from the lab as you can get. Still, I’ve met many PhD’s who have done very well outside their disciplines, not betting the long shot that they will find a tenure.


  14. According to that Wiki entry, GDP includes “consumption”, which combined with “industrial”, means the physical products we buy and use, not just create. And compare to China, even though they have 1/2 the “money” tied up in industrial that we do, it would appear that our number includes money spent (consumption). Since we’re very wasteful gluttons here in America, I think that might skew the intent of those numbers.

    You also have to take into account that China has 300 million or so people in the “middle class”, about as many as our total population. And China has almost 50% of their GDP in industrial, we have 20% (and I’m thinking that number is skewed, hence nonsensical, because it includes consumption).

    and if I’m not mistaken, anything that is done by American companies, but not actual American laborers, is included in those numbers.

    At the end of the day, Americans are “transforming less natural resources into goods” than they used to, and that’s the activity that allows your unskilled labor to “earn a living”. Take that away from those not smart enough to do well in school, and what are they to do to pay their bills?

    “As for the vocations, since people don’t want to be plumbers, the scarcity allows them to charge high prices.”

    I don’t know that I agree with this assertion.. that they are scarce. Plumbers go out of business all the time because there’s not enough for them to do, so being scarce doesn’t seem to be accurate. I think that might be more of a locational thing, and you might have scarcity in bigger cities or something, but on average, I don’t know we don’t have too few plumbers. Though, we probably lost at least one.. “Joe”.. to the political/media arena, so maybe we’re short on plumbers now.

    I think one of the reasons plumbers (and the like) charge so much is because people look at the yellow pages and pick the most catchy ad as the number to call. When I needed a water heater installed one time, I could either pay $650 installed or $1200 installed. The $1200 came from the yellow page ads, the $650 came from going through the entire list of plumbers.. Most people aren’t going to call around, or even know what they are asking. Most people think most of the world runs on magic.. magic boxes with magic pictures in them bring them American Idol.. magic boxes with magic pedals get them to work and the movies.. magic boxes with magic keyboards get them their internet porn.. and they have NO idea how any of it works, and they don’t care.. they just want their porn.

    Just ask Ann 😀

    I think one of the biggest reasons we have a shortage of plumbers (if we do) is because everyone wants to be a Wall Street Banker and get filthy rich by doing nothing, then not pay taxes on that money because it was free (but “at risk”.. blah blah). We watch the lives of the rich and famous, and tout that as the “ideal”.. so no one wants to actually earn a living any more. And, when it comes to things like plumbers, that $200/hr you’re paying only pays the guy at the house doing work $15.00 – $25.00 / hr. The owner is putting all the rest of that money in the stock market, then not wanting to pay taxes or benefits for his workers. Kind of like car dealers. LOTS of them, but bring your car in for work once..

  15. Savantster quipped
    “Plumbers go out of business all the time because there’s not enough for them to do, so
    being scarce doesn’t seem to be accurate”

    Could you quantify that or is that anecdotal?

    Plumbers, laborers, and all the trades are subject to the laws of supply and demand. It’s the people who spend their careers with the government and affiliated agencies that are immune from the law of supply and demand.

  16. I don’t think it’s solely about supply and demand. I think perception plays into it, too. Even if there’s a shortage of apple pickers, a lot of people just aren’t going to pick apples. They think it is “beneath” them. Take nursing, for instance. I’ve been hearing for years that there is a major shortage of nurses. We’ve had years to train them, and yet we still have a shortage. Is there something about nursing that people don’t like? Maybe, hanging out with sick people 24/7 for low pay isn’t really a turn on, I dunno. Have wages kept up with demand? If not, something must be countering it…like health care costs. Ditto with teachers. Who wants to put up with inattentive, screaming kids for no pay and no support from governments or parents? Something else must be going on here than supply and demand.

  17. Interesting fact in Florida,

    They’ve been cutting the hours of nurses for the past six months an average of 2.5 hours a week, and hospitals have been net laying off according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.. The nurses are complaining about increased patient loads combined with less hours. Florida, for the first time in 50 years is suffering a net decline in population. My area has 10% unemployment due to the layoffs of construction workers. Construction work, when you can get it, is paying 40% less than 3 years ago, again due to supply and demand.

    Nurses might be considered to be low paid, but here in my area, staff RN’s make $28-45/hour, with specialists making more . I don’t know if the readers of this site would consider that to be low paid or not.

    I know that I couldn’t do that thankless job.


  18. Savanster:
    “We watch the lives of the rich and famous, and tout that as the “ideal”.. so no one wants to actually earn a living any more.”

    I would definitely agree, to the point where people complain that, say, illegal immigrants are “taking all of the jobs”–well, yeah, because they’re willing to do the work that we, as Americans, don’t want to touch because we feel we’re too good for it. We will bypass those “grunt” jobs–like janitorial, fast food, and yes, maybe even trades like plumbing and carpentry–and hold out for the “real” jobs–whatever they may be.

    As for the actual “GED vs. PhD” argument, well, I’ve got an M.S. in Computer Science and am working at a level one help desk right now, so it’s not helping me a whole heck of a lot. And when I was still searching, it was extremely hard to find something that I wasn’t considered overqualified for, so I can imagine it being even worse with a PhD.

  19. Ubertramp:

    Well, if you’re talking about disparity of wages, and especially starting wages, as being “value,” then there are several factors at work, and believe me, it’s not just the marketplace. For instance, there’s ability to pay and its relationship to leverage. Auto workers and airline pilots once earned as much as they did because they worked in capital-intensive industries where a strike would be far more expensive, in the short term, than simply meeting salary and benefit demands. People in financial services make a lot of money because they handle a lot of money, and get little basis points from those huge amounts of cash every time they handle it. Believe me, I did focus groups at Salomon Brothers, and those people weren’t stupid, but they were barely above average, as a whole.

    In addition, jobs with little risk tend to pay less than jobs with high risk (generally, risk of being fired). Security of income seems to offset pay for at least some workers in the talent pool. People who make big money in films, for instance, are at great risk of never seeing another paycheck if they screw up badly enough. And, of course, the nature of their business is that it tends to bring in huge amounts of revenue vs. the cost of production, so there is money to go around. Not so for the average cop on the beat.

    As for the “value” of a degree, I think that depends on the value of several things: the discrete knowledge learned and able to be used, the universal skill set learned and able to be used, and the cachet of the degree. For instance, back when I was hiring people for jobs with career tracks taking them up to $300,000/year or so without having to go into management, I was looking for extraordinary brains and extraordinary work ethic. I figured (like many other employers) that I was much more likely to find people with these qualities at, say, Dartmouth than I was at, say, Weber State. In this sense, a degree with a brand name serves as a pre-screening device for employers like me. And, of course, there’s the value of contacts with wealthy and likely-to-be-successful people to consider, as well.

    In the end, though, I think it’s true that Americans are highly suspicious of “book larnin'” because, after all, they have so little of it.

  20. JSO, how about the definition of risk. Scientist don’t “risk” a lot, except for grant money, but if they didn’t do what they did, people would die of diseases that could be cured. How do you quantify that “risk?” That’s part of why I was asking Jeff about how much money is spent. The average NIH R01 grant is for about $250,000/yr for four years. How many R01s could we have funded for the amount of money that went into, say, making Waterworld ($40M?). Getting 2-3 R01s every couple of years in the science world pretty much means “you’ve made it.” (and trust me, that money isn’t for salaries). Granted, the investors risked their money against the movie bombing in the theaters and on DVD. But by NOT using that money on scientific R&D, could you argue are they risking pain and death?

    Brian could make the same argument about global warming. By not spending that $40M on, say, developing new fusion/fission technology, are we risking the planet?

    I guess you could argue that the problems with science is that the “risks” are unquantifiable and theoretical. You don’t really know what the risk is until after you’ve solved the problem. So it’s harder to justify spending the money on those risks.

  21. Well, I thought we were talking about pay. If it’s pay you’re talking about, then the “risk” factor has to do with how risky the job is, in terms of losing that job, to the person in it.

    But, I’ve done hundreds of research focus groups on the issue of pay in organizations, and the argument often comes up that every job should be paid more because, after all, if they aren’t done correctly, bad things could happen. And that’s true. It’s a bit like the old saw:

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost
    For want of a shoe, the horse was lost
    For want of a hose, the rider was lost
    For want of a rider, the battle was lost.

    All very true, of course, but no one in his right mind would pay as much for the nail as for the horse.

  22. JSO,

    I can come up with at least three scenarios where rational people would pay as much for a nail as a horse because it’s all about perceived value and utility. That being said, tulip bulbs were sold for $25,000 a few hundred years ago and when the house of cards crashed, the economy of Europe was ruined.


  23. Of course, none of this takes into account the unpaid labor which keeps the world going at its most basic level.

  24. Damn. That’ll screw up the curve, no doubt. I work with imbred models. Hmmmm. Either one of you from NC? 🙂

    But since you brought it up, what does your experience tell you about child rearing? PhD or GED? I’d bet GED ends up being better overall.

  25. “It’s the people who spend their careers with the government and affiliated agencies that are immune from the law of supply and demand.”

    And going to work every day and providing a service to people that need it, then getting paid for that.. that’s not a ‘job’ either, right? because someone isn’t also profiting from someone else?

  26. “Believe me, I did focus groups at Salomon Brothers, and those people weren’t stupid, but they were barely above average, as a whole.”

    Wasn’t there just a study that proved wealth is NOT correlated to intelligence? I’m pretty sure I know what it _is_ correlated to, though.

  27. Formal education makes not one damn bit of difference in any one person’s potential to parent effectively – that’s my teacher experience talking, by the way.

    True, the factors which tend to result in higher levels of formal education in parents also tend to create better odds for their kids to get more schooling, make more money, broaden their view of the world. It also means those kids can consume more drugs, lawyer their way out of consequences, buy their way into “elite” educational institutions and afford to insulate themselves from that broader, more disturbing view. Highly educated people can overthink every decision or neglect to think at all about parenting, just like everyone else…

    I can’t know for certain, but I suspect that the old “authoritative and child-centered” description of a good parent has very little to do with degrees or the lack thereof.

  28. A good study would be to see who has a higher level of contentment and less neurotic behavior, GED’s or PhD’s.


  29. Ann, I respectfully disagree with your ideas on parenting. I was the best parent I could be, and did the best job I could. I gave my son love, encouragement, help, praise, discipline, sent him to the best schools in the country, and he still turned into a liberal:) Just joking as I’m very proud of my son.


  30. Aha! The secret is out! Savvy is Jeff’s son! hahaha.

    I guess the reason I was suggesting that GEDs would be better parents is because getting a PhD takes a certain amount of selfishness. Getting a GED requires that you once made the choice to stop going to school, but then grew up enough to realize you could be something more.

  31. However, it also postpones breeding, doesn’t it? At least usually? Older people with a firmer sense of self might have a better foundation to anchor them through the constant ego blows and emotional storms of parenting.

    Or they might be totally batshit their entire lives and breed anyway.

  32. Having gone through the process of getting a PhD, as well as helping students get theirs, I’m cnvinced we’re all batshit crazy. I read somewhere that academia is a giant pyramid scheme where we train our replacements and then deny them professorships, ensuring a perpetual desperate, highly educated slave labor pool…which is why we have a growing post doc population. Does that sound batshit crazy to you? 🙂

  33. “However, it also postpones breeding, doesn’t it?”

    Not just postpone it, but reduces the number of children birthed. Education is inversely proportional to number of children for a woman.. which is why the poorest (and least educated) nations are growing the fastest.. it’s a huge problem, and then couple that with much much much higher survival rates on infants thanks to medicines and aid/care workers..

    And I don’t know that getting a GED means you “grew up”, I think it means you got tired of working some less than McDonalds job and wanted to work at McDonalds or better.. realizing you totally screwed yourself and there’s only one way out isn’t the same as growing up.

    For your #41, the only reason we have the problem is because we don’t do enough research in this country, and we don’t value knowledge and education in general. That’s mostly because we know smart people that have thought about a lot of stuff will get bored easily doing monkey crap for shit pay and leave for something more challenging.

    I have a solution I think might work.. if we only worked 20 hours a week (and that was enough to pay for the necessities in life), then could make money helping with research, we’d have more and more people not getting overly frustrated by their “jobs”, and being able to use all that knowledge from their education.. and they would be helping move our society into the future. That is, if people can use their educations for both self actualizing _and_ research (helping society) at the same time, and it not feel like they have no time for anything else (working 60 hours a week so someone else can float around on their yacht and you can barely cover your bills doesn’t leave much time for enjoying your life), I bet we’d have a lot more advancements in our society.

    And, Jeff. The statement of “ignorance is bliss” is true. But you can’t be truly stupid if you’re not, so smart people are kind of screwed (and level of education doesn’t always reflect intelligence). All we can do is point out where things don’t make sense and try to change them. I call the bliss ignorant people have a shorted bliss, and the contentment that intelligent people have the capacity for is a deeper one since it contains more elements that are all contented as well. Or, 5lbs of happy isn’t the same as 50lbs of happy, even if the 5lbs is 100% full and the 50lbs is 25% full.. But, since happy and content are completely subjective, it’s all moot anyway 😀

  34. “Or, 5lbs of happy isn’t the same as 50lbs of happy, even if the 5lbs is 100% full and the 50lbs is 25% full.”

    Hmm.. to be clear, 5lbs at 100% means 5lbs of happy in a 5lb box, the 50 lbs of happy at 25% is 50lbs of happy in a 200lb box. .. 50>5, more is better in a sense.. though, I can see an argument being made for full happiness, regardless of total amount, is better because there’s no room for unhappy, and what could be better? .. but, coming from a much bigger box and knowing what they don’t know in that smaller box, I’d not want to give it up for anything..

    I’m sure I’ve over thought this, too >:^P

  35. Savantster,

    I recommend you go watch Idiocracy (2006 with Luke Wilson), it shows where we are headed with the disperportionate birth rate you mention.

  36. Oh, I’ve seen it.. it was disturbing to see the ugly truth put up there on the screen like that knowing full well that a hell of a lot of the people that watch that movie won’t understand the truth of it.

  37. PhD’s should be for those who genuinely love to learn from the philosophical to the practical. I am a 72 year old liberal arts major who is still in love with learning of any kind and believes in formal education for the discipline of the mind that it affords — and I say this an artist who still is wondrous when I create in wax then into bronze or begin to understand a subject new to me. I think a solid liberal arts education trains your mind to be “aware” and “appreciative” of your life journey and that’s about
    as rich as you can get.

  38. ABD in clinical psychology (bullied out of academia by rapacious/threatened tenured professor)–but wouldn’t give up the education for anything. I’ve lost my career, but the spiritual/intellectual advantage of my education keeps me deeply connected with humanity and keenly interested in life.

    Thankful I’m working as an administrative assistant–yes, a highly overqualified secretary. In debt up to my ears, never to emerge. But still, the depth of experience/wisdom I bring to each walk in the woods, each moment of life, is invaluable. I see posts from people disparaging those with PhDs, and I can feel their poverty of spirit, their material advantage doing little to deepen their experience of life. My parents were working class, nothing higher than an 8th-grade education, and I’ll never make more than they did, and never retire. But my life is full and rich indeed . . .