Is Reading a Good Investment?
Every time Megan McCardle or whomever else writes about college as an “investment,” I get a annoyed. Because who seriously thinks that the primary point of college is a financial investment? Is college a good investment? How about a really nice pen. Is that a good investment? What about a car? Or maybe a haircut? How are the long-term payoffs on all of those? And before you place your order, have you considered the chicken parmesan from an investment perspective?
This is silliness—an elaborate exercise in missing the point. Then there are sentences like this:
It’s very easy to spend four years majoring in English literature and beer pong and come out no more employable than you were before you went in.
Yes. Of course. Nobody is surprised that “beer pong” makes a terrible line on a resume. And if you spend four years dicking around, maybe you didn’t spend that time well. Of course, if your English major leaves you able to communicate effectively, culturally literate, capable of understanding subtext, and able to view problems through a variety of different lenses, maybe you’ve gained something of lasting value. Even if you didn’t major in Chemical Engineering.
College was never supposed to be some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. If you want a four-year-long, debt-financed party, adjust expectations accordingly. And if you want to make an obtuse point about rising costs in Newsweek, maybe point out how many college graduates are out of work without discussing the soft labor market, its causes, and whether or not people deciding to go to college today are likely to graduate in the same economic environment.