Day: <span>November 11, 2015</span>

What philosophers and welders have in common


One issue the Republican candidates haven’t spent much time discussing during their four televised debates is education, and that’s probably a good thing. I mean, the president of the United States has only a limited amount of responsiblity over public education, and the last two presidents have wasted much of that responsbility by promoting a wasteful, counterproductive testing regime.

So far, about all the current GOP hopefuls have offered for “improving” education are non-solutions like abolishing the Department of Education and increasing privatization. If a candidate on the Republican side has called for a significant reduction in testing and/or a greater investment in classroom resources, I have missed it.

But it was interesting during last night’s debate when Sen. Marco Rubio kind of dipped his toe into the education issue by comparing welders and philosophers.

“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers,” he said.

His remark earned good marks for rhetoric from debate-raters but maybe not so much from grammarians. The preferred wording, I believe, is “fewer philosophers,” not “less,” although Rubio’s version is much more commonly heard.

I am not sure if the senator was trying to diss philosopers because he believes most of them are liberal Democrats or was trying to make the point that welders perform a more useful everyday function for most Americans. Philosophers teach, write and debate sometimes controversial ideas, while welders build and repair physical things that people can see, touch and use.

Which profession appeals more to the conservative Republican base? Rubio is sure he knows, but apparently he doesn’t know how much most philosophers and welders earn.

The Washington Post gave Rubio credit for a “great line” but said he was totally “off base” on his facts.

Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Post said the national median wage for philosophy teachers is $63,630, compared to $37,420 for welders. Nationally, the top 10 percent of college philosophy professors make almost $200,000 a year – not sure how many of those are in Texas – while most welders top out at about $58,590.

Philosophers and welders have one thing in common though. They both require educations, and the vast majority got their start in public schools.