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谁说大学读人文学科没用?它可能让你终身受益

更新时间:2019/6/19 8:20:06 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why 'worthless' humanities degrees may set you up for life
谁说大学读人文学科没用?它可能让你终身受益

At university, when I told people I was studying for a history degree, the response was almost always the same: “You want to be a teacher?”. No, a journalist. “Oh. But you’re not majoring in communications?”

在大学里,每当我告诉别人我在攻读历史学位时,人们的反应几乎一样:“你想当老师呀?”。不是啊,我想当记者。“哦。那你怎么不学传播学呢?”

In the days when a university education was the purview of a privileged few, perhaps there wasn’t the assumption that a degree had to be a springboard directly into a career. Those days are long gone.

在大学教育只属于少数特权阶层的时代,或许没人认为学位是直接进入职场的跳板。那个时代早已过去。

Today, a degree is all but a necessity for the job market, one that more than halves your chances of being unemployed. Still, that alone is no guarantee of a job – and yet we’re paying more and more for one. In the US, room, board and tuition at a private university costs an average of $48,510 a year; in the UK, tuition fees alone are £9,250 ($12,000) per year for home students; in Singapore, four years at a private university can cost up to SGD$69,336 (US$51,000).

如今,学位已成就业的必备条件。它能降低你失业率50%以上。尽管如此,单凭学位并不能保证你找到工作,但攻读学位的花费却越来越高。在美国,私立大学的食宿和学费平均每年为48510美元;在英国,本地学生一年仅学费就高达9250英镑(12000美元);在新加坡,上4年私立大学的费用最高可达69336新元(5.1万美元)。

Learning for the sake of learning is a beautiful thing. But given those costs, it’s no wonder that most of us need our degrees to pay off in a more concrete way. Broadly, they already do: in the US, for example, a bachelor’s degree holder earns $461 more each week than someone who never attended a university.

为了学习而学习是一件美好的事情。但考虑到这些费用,就难怪大部分人想让自己的学位以更具体的方式带来回报。总的来说,他们已经做到了:比如在美国,拥有学士学位的人每周比没上过大学的人多挣461美元。

But most of us want to maximise that investment – and that can lead to a plug-and-play type of approach to higher education. Want to be a journalist? Study journalism, we’re told. A lawyer? Pursue pre-law. Not totally sure? Go into Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) – that way, you can become an engineer or IT specialist. And no matter what you do, forget the liberal arts – non-vocational degrees that include natural and social sciences, mathematics and the humanities, such as history, philosophy and languages.

大部分人都希望这笔投资最大化,这可能会导致人们对高等教育产生一种实用主义态度。有人告诉你,想当记者?那就学新闻。想当律师?那就读法律预科。还不能确定?那就选Stem(科学、技术、工程和计算机),这样,你就可以成为一名工程师或IT专家。不管做什么,只要不是文科就好,包括自然和社会科学、数学和历史、哲学、语言这样的非职业学位。

This has been echoed by statements and policies around the world. In the US, politicians from Senator Marco Rubio to former President Barack Obama have made the humanities a punch line. (Obama later apologised). In China, the government has unveiled plans to turn 42 universities into “world class” institutions of science and technology. In the UK, government focus on Stem has led to a nearly 20% drop in students taking A-levels in English and a 15% decline in the arts.

世界各地的言论和政策也表明了这一点。在美国,从参议员鲁比奥(Marco Rubio)到前总统奥巴马(Barack Obama)等政界人士都用人文学科来抖包袱(奥巴马后来道歉了)。在中国,政府公布了将42所大学建设成“世界一流”理工院校的计划。在英国,由于政府对Stem的过度重视,导致参加英语和艺术专业入学考试的人数分别下降了20%和15%。

But there’s a problem with this approach. And it’s not just that we’re losing out on crucial ways to understand and improve both the world and ourselves – including enhancing personal wellbeing, sparking innovation and helping create tolerance, among other values.

这种做法存在一个问题。我们失去了解释和改变世界及提升自我的关键途径,包括提升个人幸福和参与、创造、宽容等价值观。

It’s also that our assumptions about the market value of certain degrees – and the “worthlessness” of others – might be off. At best, that could be making some students unnecessarily stressed. At worst? Pushing people onto paths that set them up for less fulfilling lives. It also perpetuates the stereotype of liberal arts graduates, in particular, as an elite caste – something that can discourage underprivileged students, and anyone else who needs an immediate return on their university investment, from pursuing potentially rewarding disciplines. (Though, of course, this is hardly the only diversity problem such disciplines have).

此外,我们其它学位的市场价值,以及对人文学科“毫无价值”的错识认识。一般情况,会让一些学生承受不必要的压力。最坏的情况,会让人们走上没有成就感的生活道路。它还延续了对文科毕业生的成见,尤其是精英阶层,这可能会使贫困学生和其他需要大学投资带来即时回报的人,打消攻读可能有回报学科的念头。(当然,这并不是此类学科存在的唯一的多样性问题)。

Soft skills, critical thinking

软技能,批判性思维

George Anders is convinced we have the humanities in particular all wrong. When he was a technology reporter for Forbes from 2012 to 2016, he says Silicon Valley “was consumed with this idea that there was no education but Stem education”.

安德斯(George Anders)认为,我们对人文学科的认识是完全错误的。在2012年至2016年间担任《福布斯》(Forbes)科技记者时,他说,硅谷“充斥着只有Stem教育才是教育的观念”。

But when he talked to hiring managers at the biggest tech companies, he found a different reality. “Uber was picking up psychology majors to deal with unhappy riders and drivers. Opentable was hiring English majors to bring data to restauranteurs to get them excited about what data could do for their restaurants,” he says.

但当他与大型科技公司招聘经理交谈时,他发现,现实是另一种情景。他说:“优步(Uber)在挑选心理学专业的学生来和不开心的乘客及司机打交道。Opentable在招募英语专业的学生把数据介绍给餐厅老板,让老板对数据能为餐厅带来什么感到兴奋。

“I realised that the ability to communicate and get along with people, and understand what’s on other people’s minds, and do full-strength critical thinking – all of these things were valued and appreciated by everyone as important job skills, except the media.” This realisation led him to write his appropriately-titled book You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education.

我意识到,与人沟通和相处、理解他人的想法、进行全面的批判性思考的能力,除了媒体,所有人都重视和欣赏这种能力,认为它们是重要的职业技能。”意识到这一点后,安德斯写了一本书,名字起得恰到好处:《一切皆有可能:“无用”的文科教育的惊人力量》(You Can Do Anything: The surprise Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education)。

Take a look at the skills employers say they’re after. LinkedIn’s research on the most sought-after job skills by employers for 2019 found that the three most-wanted “soft skills” were creativity, persuasion and collaboration, while one of the five top “hard skills” was people management. A full 56% of UK employers surveyed said their staff lacked essential teamwork skills and 46% thought it was a problem that their employees struggled with handling feelings, whether theirs or others’. It’s not just UK employers: one 2017 study found that the fastest-growing jobs in the US in the last 30 years have almost all specifically required a high level of social skills.

来看看雇主重视的技能。领英(LinkedIn)对2019年最受雇主欢迎的职业技能进行的调查发现,最受雇主欢迎的三大“软技能”是:创造力、说服力和协作能力,而最受欢迎的五大“硬技能”之一是人员管理能力。在接受调查的英国雇主中,56%的雇主称员工缺乏必要的团队合作技巧,46%的雇主认为员工难以处理自己或他人的情绪是一个问题。不仅仅是英国的雇主,2017年的一项研究发现,过去30年美国增长最快的工作岗位几乎都要求有高水平的社交技能。

Or take it directly from two top executives at tech giant Microsoft who wrote recently: "As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.

或者直接引用科技巨头微软(Microsoft)的两位高管最近撰文时所说的:“随着计算机的行为更加接近人类,社会科学和人文学科将变得愈发重要。语言、艺术、历史、经济学、伦理学、哲学、心理学和人类发展学课程,能够教授学生批判性的思维和基于哲学、伦理学层面上的思考,这些技能将有助于人工智能解决方案的开发和管理。”

Of course, it goes without saying that you can be an excellent communicator and critical thinker without a liberal arts degree. And any good university education, not just one in English or psychology, should sharpen these abilities further. “Any degree will give you very important generic skills like being able to write, being able to present an argument, research, problem-solve, teamwork, becoming familiar with technology,” says Dublin-based educational consultant and career coach Anne Mangan.

当然,没有文科学位也能具备出色的沟通和批判性思维能力,这一点不言而喻。任何优秀的大学教育,不仅仅是英语或心理学专业的大学教育,都会提高这些能力。都柏林的教育顾问兼职业导师曼根(Anne Mangan)说:“任何一个学位都能教给你通用技能,比如写作、提出论点、做研究、解决问题、团队合作和熟悉技术的能力。”

But few courses of study are quite as heavy on reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking as the liberal arts, in particular the humanities – whether that’s by debating other students in a seminar, writing a thesis paper or analysing poetry.

但很少有像人文学科那样,通过在研讨班上与其他学生辩论、撰写论文和分析诗歌等形式。培养学生的阅读、写作、表达和批判性思维的能力。

When asked to drill the most job market-ready skills of a humanities graduate down to three, Anders doesn’t hesitate. “Creativity, curiosity and empathy,” he says. “Empathy is usually the biggest one. That doesn’t just mean feeling sorry for people with problems. It means an ability to understand the needs and wants of a diverse group of people.

在被要求列出人文学科毕业生,在就业市场上最明显的三个特点时,安德斯没有丝毫迟疑地说:“创造力、好奇心和同理心。同理心通常是最重要的,这不仅仅意味着对遇到困难的人富有同情心,还意味着能够理解不同群体成员的需求和愿望。”

“Think of people who oversee clinical drug tests. You need to get doctors, nurses, regulators all on the same page. You have to have the ability to think about what’s going to get this 72-year-old woman to feel comfortable being tracked long term, what do we have to do so this researcher takes this study seriously. That’s an empathy job.”

“想想那些负责临床药物测试的人。怎样做才能让医生、护士和监管机构达成共识。如何能让一名72岁的女士愿意被长期追踪,我们应该做什么,研究人员才会认真对待这项研究。这是一份要求具有同理心的工作。”

But in general, say Anders and others, the benefit of a humanities degree is the emphasis it puts on teaching students to think, critique and persuade – often in the grey areas where there isn’t much data available or you need to work out what to believe.

但安德斯和另一些人也表示,人文学科的好处是它强调教授学生去思考、批判和说服。这些往往处于灰色地带,没有可依据的数据,得由你自己思考判断。

It’s small wonder, therefore, that humanities graduates go on to a variety of fields. The biggest group of US humanities graduates, 15%, go on to management positions. That’s followed by 14% who are in in office and administrative positions, 13% who are in sales and another 12% who are in education, mostly teaching. Another 10% are in business and finance.

因此,人文学科的毕业生能进入各种领域也就不足为奇了。美国的人文学科毕业生中,走上管理岗位的比例是最高的,占15%。紧随其后的是办公室职员和行政岗位,占14%。13%的人进入销售行业,还有12%的人进入教育行业,主要是当老师。另有10%的人从事商业和金融行业。

And while there’s often an assumption that the careers humanities graduates pursue just aren’t as good as the jobs snapped up by, say, engineers or medics, that isn’t the case. In Australia, for example, three of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are sales assistants, clerks, and advertising, public relations and sales managers – all of which might look familiar as fields that humanities graduates tend to pursue.

虽然人们常常认为人文学科的毕业生从事的职业,不如学理工科或医学的毕业生争取到的工作好,但事实并非如此。以澳大利亚为例,在增长最快的10个职业中,其中3个分别是销售经理、广告文员、公共关系,这些都是人文学科毕业生长于从事的领域。

Meanwhile, Glassdoor’s 2019 research found that eight of the top 10 best jobs in the UK were managerial positions – people-oriented roles that require communication skills and emotional intelligence. (It defined "best" by combining earning potential, overall job satisfaction rating and number of job openings.) And many of them were outside Stem-based industries. The third best job was marketing manager; fourth, product manager; fifth, sales manager. An engineering role doesn’t appear on the list until the 18th slot – below positions in communications, HR and project management.

与此同时,Glassdoor网站2019年的调查发现,在英国排名前10的最佳工作岗位中,8个是管理岗位,在与人打交道的职位中,需要的是沟通技巧和情商。(“最佳”的定义是结合了收入潜力、工作满足度和职位空缺数量。)其中很多都不属于以Stem为基础的行业。排名第3的是市场经理、第4是产品经理、第5是销售经理。工程类职位在榜单上的第18名,在传播、人力资源和项目管理类职位之后。

One recent study of 1,700 people from 30 countries, meanwhile, found that the majority of those in leadership positions had either a social sciences or humanities degree. That was especially true of leaders under 45 years of age; leaders over 45 were more likely to have studied Stem.

同时,对来自30个国家的1700人进行的一项调查发现,担任领导职务的人大多拥有社会科学学位和人文学科学位。45岁以下的领导尤其如此;45岁以上的领导学Stem的稍多一些。

Be career-ready

为进入职场做好准备

This isn’t to say that a liberal arts degree is the easy road. “A lot of the people I talked to were five or 10 years into their career, and there was a sense that the first year was bumpy, and it took a while to find their footing,” Anders says. “But as things played out, it did tend to work.”

这并不是说攻读文科学位是一条捷径。“我和很多人交谈过,他们都是处于职业生涯开始的5年或10年,总体感觉是第一年比较困难,要花一段时间才能适应。但随着工作时间的延长和发展,所学人文专业确实给了很大帮助。”

For some graduates, the initial challenge was not knowing what they wanted to do with their lives. For others, it was not having acquired as many technical skills with their degree as, say, their IT trainee peers and having to play catch-up after.

对于一些毕业生来说,开始的挑战是不知道自己想做什么。对另一些人来说,是在攻读文科学位期间掌握的技术技能没有学IT的同龄人多,因此不得不在毕业后努力追赶。

But pursuing a more vocational degree can come with its own risks too. Not every teenager knows exactly what they want to do with their lives, and our career aspirations often change over time. One UK report found that more than one-third of Brits have changed careers in their lifetime. LinkedIn found that 40% of professionals are interested in making a “career pivot” – and younger people are interested most of all. Focusing on broadly applicable skills like critical thinking no longer seems like such a moon shot when you consider how many different jobs and industries they can be applied to (though for a young person figuring out their career path, it’s true that flexibility also can feel overwhelming).

但攻读与职业相关性联系紧密的学位也可能存在风险。不是每个青少年都清楚地知道自己想做什么,并且职业抱负常会随着时间的推移而发生改变。英国的一份报告发现,超过三分之一的英国人在一生中换过职业。领英发现,40%的职场人士对“改行”感兴趣,而且年轻人尤其感兴趣。像有批判性思维的人,可适用于很多不同的工作岗位和行业,“改行”不再是一件不可能实现的事(但对正在规划职业道路的年轻人来说,变动也会让他们感到不知所措)。

Specialised technical skills are important in the job market too. But there are a number of ways to acquire them. “I’m very pro-internships and apprenticeships. We’ve seen that that can directly correlate to you having a more grounded skill base in the workplace,” says career development coach Christina Georgalla.

专业的技术技能在就业市场上也很重要。但获得这类技能的途径有很多。职业发展导师耶奥加拉(Christina Georgalla)说:“我非常支持实习和学徒制。我们发现,这可以直接帮助你在职场获得坚实的技能基础。

“I even advocate that post-university, if you’re not sure, take a year out and instead of going travelling, actually trial doing different internships. Even if it’s the same field but in TV, say, broadcasting versus producing versus presenting, so you can see the difference.”

我建议大学毕业后,如果你还不能确定从事什么职业,可以抽出一年时间,不是去旅行,而是尝试做不同的实习工作。即使是在同一个领域,比如电视行业中的广播、制作和呈现,这样你就能发现其中的不同。”

But what about the other perceived pitfalls – like a higher unemployment rate and lower salaries?

但人们也认为人文学科有其他的缺点呢,比如失业率更高、收入更低?

Why broader matters

就业面更广的专业为什么重要

It’s true that the humanities come with a higher risk of unemployment. But it’s worth noting that the risk is slighter than you’d imagine. For young people (aged 25-34) in the US, the unemployment rate of those with a humanities degree is 4%. An engineering or business degree comes with an unemployment rate of a little more than 3%. That single additional percentage point is one extra person per 100, such a small amount it’s often within the margin of error of many surveys.

的确,人文学科毕业生失业的风险更高。但值得注意的是,这个风险比想象的要小。在美国的年轻人(25-34岁)中,人文学科毕业生的失业率为4%。工程专业或商科毕业生的失业率略高于3%。高出的这一个百分点相当于每100个人多一个。这是一个很小的数字,通常是在调查的误差范围之内。

Salaries aren’t so straightforward either. Yes, in the UK, the top earnings are pulled in by those who study medicine or dentistry, economics or maths; in the US, engineering, physical sciences or business. Some of the most popular humanities, such as history or English, are in the bottom half of the group.

收入差距的成因也不是那么简单。在英国收入最高的是医学专业的牙科、经济学或学计算机的人;在美国则是学工程学、物理学或商科的。一些受欢迎的人文学科,比如历史或英语,属于收入较低的学科。

But there’s more to the story – including that for some jobs, it seems that it’s actually better to start with a broader degree, rather than a professional one.

但造成这种情况的原因有很多。对某此工作来说,从攻读就业面更广的学位开始,比从攻读专业性强的学位开始更好。

Take law. In the US, an undergraduate student who took the seemingly most direct route to becoming a lawyer, judge or magistrate – majoring in a pre-law or legal studies degree – can expect to earn an average of $94,000 a year. But those who majored in philosophy or religious studies make an average of $110,000. Graduates who studied area, ethnic and civilisations studies earn $124,000, US history majors earn $143,000 and those who studied foreign languages earn $148,000, a stunning $54,000 a year above their pre-law counterparts.

以法律行业为例。在美国,学法律预科或法律研究专业,这似乎是成为律师、法官或地方执法官最直接的途径,平均本科生年薪预计能达到9.4万美元。但哲学或宗教研究专业的毕业生平均年薪为11万美元。主修地区、民族和文明研究的毕业生年薪为12.4万美元,美国历史专业的毕业生年薪为14.3万美元,学外语的毕业生年薪则为14.8万美元,比学法律预科的毕业生高出5.4万美元,这一数字令人震惊。

There are similar examples in other industries too. Take managers in the marketing, advertising and PR industries: those who majored in advertising and PR earn about $64,000 a year – but those who studied liberal arts make $84,000.

其他行业也有类似的例子。以市场营销、广告和公关行业的经理为例:广告和公关专业毕业的经理年薪约为6.4万美元,而学文科的经理年薪为8.4万美元。

And even while overall salary disparities do remain, it may not be the degree itself. Humanities graduates in particular are more likely to be female. We all know about the gender pay gap, and notable wage disparities persist in the humanities: US men who major in the humanities have median earnings of $60,000, for example, while women make $48,000. Since more than six in 10 humanities majors are women, the gender pay gap, not the degree, may be to blame.

尽管总体上收入差距依然存在,但这可能不是学位本身的问题。尤其是,人文学科的毕业生中女性更多。我们都知道性别收入差距,而人文学科长期存在明显的收入差距:比如,主修人文学科的美国男性收入中位数为6万美元,而女性的收入中位数仅为4.8万美元。由于人文专业的学生中女性占比超过60%,收入差距可能要归咎于性别收入差距而不是学位。

We also know that as more women move into a field, the field’s overall earnings go down. Given that, is it any wonder that English majors, seven in 10 of whom are women, tend to make less than engineers, eight in 10 of whom are men?

我们还知道,当越来越多的女性进入某个领域时,该领域的整体收入会下降。考虑到这一点,难怪女性占70%的英语专业毕业生,收入往往不及男性占80%的工程专业毕业生。

Do what you love

做自己喜欢的事

This is a big part of why there is one major takeaway, says Mangan. Whatever a student pursues in university, it must be something that they aren’t just good at, but they really enjoy.

曼根认为,选择职业的重要因素应该是。不管学生在大学里学的是什么专业,选择职业必须是他们不仅擅长,而且真正喜欢的。

“In most areas that I can see, the employer just wants to know that you’ve been to college and you’ve done well. That’s why I think doing something that really interests you is essential – because that’s when you’re going to do well,” she says.

她说:“在我观察到的大部分领域,雇主只想知道你上没上过大学,成绩如何。因此,我认为做真正让你感兴趣的事情至关重要,因为只有感兴趣你才能取得好的成绩。”

No matter what, making a degree or career path decision based on average salaries isn’t a good move. “Financial success is not a good reason. It tends to be a very poor reason,” Mangan says. “Be successful at something and money will follow, as opposed to the other way around. Focus on doing the stuff that you love that you’ll be so enthusiastic about, people will want to give you a job. Then go and develop within that job.”

无论怎样,根据平均工资来决定专业或职业道路是不明智的。曼根说:”财务上的成功不是一个好的理由。而且是一个非常糟糕的理由。无论在哪一行取得成功,收入都会随之提高,而不是相反。做自己喜欢的事情,你会专注而充满热情,雇主会愿意给你一份工作。然后在工作中不断提升。“

This speaks to a broader point: the whole question of whether a student should choose Stem versus the humanities, or a vocational course versus a liberal arts degree, might be misguided to begin with. It’s not as if most of us have an equal amount of passion and aptitude for, say, accounting and art history. Plenty of people know what they love most. They just don’t know if they should pursue it. And the headlines most of us see don’t help.

这说明了一点,学生应该选择Stem还是人文学科,或者应该选择职业课程还是人文教育这个问题,可能一开始就被误导了。不是所有人都对会计和艺术史有同样多的热情和天赋。很多人知道自己最喜欢什么。只是不知道应不应该读那个专业,舆论引导也无济于事。

This is part of why parents and teachers often need to take a step back, Mangan says. “There is only one expert. I’m the expert on me, you’re the expert on you, they’re the expert on themselves,” she says. “And nobody, I really mean nobody, can tell them how to do what they should be doing.”

这就是家长和老师需要退后一步的原因。曼根说:”只有一位专家。我是研究我自己的专家,你是研究你自己的专家,他们是研究他们自己的专家。没有人,真的没有人能告诉你,如何做你应该做的事情。“

Even, it seems, if that means pursuing a “useless” degree – like one in liberal arts.

甚至,这意味着攻读一个”无用“的学位,比如文科学位,也是这样。

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