A week that saw presidential candidate Marco Rubio denigrate philosophy majors also showed why philosophy is important with campus unrest at Mizzou and Yale.
"For the life of me, I don't know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers," Sen. Rubio, R-Fla., said.
His first sentence is correct, of course. Vocational education and jobs that do not require a college education are honorable and valuable, and there are many well-paying jobs for welders and such. As Protestant Reformation theologians pointed out long ago, there is dignity and worth in manual labor, and these jobs can be as much a service to God as the work of philosophers. (For a more recent example, check out Jordan Ballor's Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (And Action).)
Our culture has stigmatized vocational ed. This has led many who would probably be better off in a trade school to enter college instead, only to flunk out with no diploma and lots of debt.
The response to the stigmatization of vocational education should not, however, be the stigmatization of philosophy. The nation is large enough for both welders and philosophers (and even philosopher welders, if anyone feels called to such a task).
The various episodes of campus unrest currently taking place demonstrate why philosophy is so important for a democratic society.
The president of the University of Missouri (Mizzou) resigned after failing to respond adequately to racist episodes on campus. Amid the protests, students asking for a "safe space" created a space unsafe for journalists, and anyone with opinions different from their own.
"Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go," they chanted.
One of the protestors, a UM professor, called for "some muscle" to remove a reporter. The journalism school announced after the incident that she would no longer have a "courtesy appointment," though she is still part of the communications department.
Another professor at the school upset students because he didn't cancel class during the protests and offered his resignation amid the backlash (administrators didn't accept it).