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Today on Powerline, Steven Hayward quoted a paper from “Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist.” I thought, “Huh?” So I looked up environmental psychology on Wikipedia: “Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines the way in which the natural environment and our built environments shape us as individuals … The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior.”

Well, ok then. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that pretty much just a cross between behavioral geography and architectural psychology? Yeah, the same thought crossed my mind, obviously. But Wikipedia addressed this hot-button controversy as well: “Although ‘environmental psychology’ is arguably the best-known and most comprehensive description of the field, it is also known as human factors science, cognitive ergonomics, ecological psychology, ecopsychology, environment–behavior studies, and person–environment studies. Closely related fields include architectural psychology, socio-architecture, behavioral geography, environmental sociology, social ecology, and environmental design research.”

So there you go.

My kids and I discussed this before college. I explained that Daddy was not paying for a degree in socio-architecture and that if they were going to spend years of their lives studying something, they might as well choose something that might help them and someone else at some point.

The explosion of fields of study that I’ve never heard of intrigues me. Where did all this stuff come from? Why? What kids go to their 1st grade grown-up day dressed up as a cognitive economist? And if they don’t aspire to such fields, what pulls them into these disciplines? And how do colleges tempt them to choose something they’d never heard of until this afternoon?

It’s not the job market, I wouldn’t think. I’m always amazed at how many waitresses have college degrees, and how many of them are in behavioral geography (or whatever).

Many of these kids borrow money – lots of money – to get advanced degrees in subjects that don’t matter to get jobs that don’t exist where they can earn no money. Why? What is their plan?

I understand the colleges’ motivation. They’re in the business of selling degrees. Fine.

What I don’t understand is the motivation of the students. Why do they choose fields like this? What is their plan?

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My favorite so far has been the Occupy Wall Street protestor who lamented that he couldn’t find a job in the field of study that he had a master’s degree in: Advanced Puppetry.

    • #1
    • October 20, 2020, at 12:53 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  2. Jules PA Member

    They want to be trail blazers?

    Unfortunately the real qualities of trail blazers have less to do with the subject at hand, and more to do with the habits of mind, habits of time, habits of action. And providing others with something valuable. 

     

    • #2
    • October 20, 2020, at 12:59 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  3. Jules PA Member

    Interdisciplinary is something that happens in your mind, not something someone teaches you. 

    • #3
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:00 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  4. Seawriter Contributor

    I think the stundents’ motivation is obvious. The degrees sound cool and interesting. They are also not very challenging. No chance of failure. They are not thinking ahead because their ‘rents have swaddled them from reality since they were young. They are not taught to strive in their schools before going to college. Instead they are taught to cooperate, play nice, and get a participation trophy. 

    For them the degree is not a means. it is an end. Get a degree and you get offered the standard “rich and famous” contract, just like at the end of the first Muppets Movie. I would bet in most cases they have also never learned the value of money, and their parents provided them with everything. They have been told not to trouble their little heads with cost-benefit analysis, and have lived in the moment through five years of college. (Five because colleges now arrange things so you cannot meet the distribution of courses in just four years, even if you pass everything. You need at least one course offered only in the fall and another only in the spring, and you have to take prerequisite courses that are offered only to seniors.) Since money is something that has magically appeared throughout their lives and because many have never held a paying job they don’t think of debt in terms of hours of your life you spend working to earn what you have to to pay it off. And there is no difference between owing $100 or owing $100,000.

    • #4
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:16 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  5. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat: Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings.

    Kind of like an interior designer but without the practical applications.

    • #5
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:17 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  6. EODmom Coolidge

    They’ve never been told they had to produce anything of value and have no plan that involves actual work at gaining knowledge that someone will pay them to have a bunch of. Much less write a simple sentence with one thought. 

    • #6
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  7. Goldgeller Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Interdisciplinary is something that happens in your mind, not something someone teaches you.

    I definitely agree with you. And some interdisciplinary degrees probably take things too far.

    I think when it comes to any discipline, it is important to be encouraged, and not just able, to ask and evaluate questions that might be put to the side in another discipline. At least in some of the social sciences there can be arbitrary walls because you are encouraged to stay in a particular research agenda.

    I think the key to interdisciplinary fields isn’t so much trying to do a little of everything, but to really focus on taking something from one field and using that to fill an underappreciated gap, or approach a question in a different way. I think there is a danger in an overly-broad jack of all trades degree.

    • #7
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:21 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. TBA Coolidge

    Here is my not-at-all-thought-out answer: It’s the internet’s fault. 

    Surfing the web means you can look at cool stuff, and only cool stuff, since when you get bored or confused it’s no longer cool and you can look at something else. 

    My knowledge about most things is shallow. Not as shallow as a journalist’s knowledge but still pretty shallow. 

    Still, it’s fun to glue two ideas together and if they look like they might connect I can feel like a genius with very low effort but lots of self-congratulation. 

    I’m smart, and I have self-esteem. So I deserve a doctorate in gluing ideas together.

    • #8
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  9. Full Size Tabby Member

    Dr. Bastiat: What I don’t understand is the motivation of the students. Why do they choose fields like this? What is their plan?

    Objection, your honor. Assumes facts not in evidence (that the students have a “plan”). 

    I was startled at our son’s college graduation (2010, BS Electrical Engineering) that the college encouraged students to make up their own major. (Very few actually did. About 70% of the college’s graduates received conventional engineering degrees No there were not a lot of women at the college.) As near as I could figure it out, the students who did make up their own major did so for the purpose of having a justification to take the classes that they wanted to, and only the classes that they wanted to. The whole point was the here and now of “what do I want to do while in college?” Not some grand plan for the future. 

     

    Dr. Bastiat: Many of these kids borrow money – lots of money – to get advanced degrees in subjects that don’t matter to get jobs that don’t exist where they can earn no money. Why? What is their plan?

    Again, assumes facts not in evidence (that the students have a “plan”). Very few that I have talked to even really think about the fact that they will be expected to pay back the money that they borrow. One of my big gripes with college admissions departments has been that they gloss over the repayment obligation for borrowed money, and fail to help the students understand that loans and grants are different. Having to pay back borrowed money, and therefore needing to earn money with which to do so, rarely enters the mind of the typical high school senior or college freshman. 

     

    • #9
    • October 20, 2020, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Except for trade schools like medicine and engineering, higher education is basically a cargo cult

    First you ruin high school education, and ban IQ testing for employment, and you’re left with “college” as a proxy. Which sorta kinda worked for a while, until not a quota quotas and federally guaranteed loans provided a full employment agency for academic, administrative and associated contracting grifters.

    • #10
    • October 20, 2020, at 2:50 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone CowboyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    My favorite so far has been the Occupy Wall Street protestor who lamented that he couldn’t find a job in the field of study that he had a master’s degree in: Advanced Puppetry.

    He finally landed his dream job.. I heard that he is running Joe Biden’s campaign, where his master’s degree in advanced puppetry is considered essential.

    • #11
    • October 20, 2020, at 2:59 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Except for trade schools like medicine and engineering, higher education is basically a cargo cult

    First you ruin high school education, and ban IQ testing for employment, and you’re left with “college” as a proxy. Which sorta kinda worked for a while, until not a quota quotas and federally guaranteed loans provided a full employment agency for academic, administrative and associated contracting grifters.

    Fantastic comment.

    • #12
    • October 20, 2020, at 3:21 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Kephalithos Member

    I have a close-to-useless graduate degree, and I have a job which really shouldn’t exist. (Basically, I work for a company feeding, like a remora, from the fleshy hide of the administrative state.)

    How did I end up in this position? Well, I’m useless. Duh. Useless people pursue useless degrees.

    • #13
    • October 20, 2020, at 3:46 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Kephalithos Member

    It’s an anecdote, so I’m not sure how to interpret it, but I happen to know quite a few — and, by “quite a few,” I mean two or three — college-educated 20-something males who’ve dropped out of the knowledge economy entirely and are now pursuing hands-on work. One went from studying economics and Latin to building cabinets in just two years.

    This, I suspect, will become more common as the toxic mix of wokeness and bureaucratic stupidity in the white-collar world drives out conservatives (and especially conservative men).

    • #14
    • October 20, 2020, at 3:52 PM PDT
    • 18 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    It’s an anecdote, so I’m not sure how to interpret it, but I happen to know quite a few — and, by “quite a few,” I mean two or three — college-educated 20-something males who’ve dropped out of the knowledge economy entirely and are now pursuing hands-on work. One went from studying economics and Latin to building cabinets in just two years.

    This, I suspect, will become more common as the toxic mix of wokeness and bureaucratic stupidity in the white-collar world drives out conservatives (and especially conservative men).

    There are a significant number of jobs in such fields. They are satisfying and remunerative. They are as close to “resession-proof” as you are likely to find.

    I think of ex-catcher and later baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola’s line when a catcher on the field was having problems: “It’s days like this that made me wish that I had listened to my mother and gone to HVAC school.”

    • #15
    • October 20, 2020, at 4:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. Kephalithos Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    It’s an anecdote, so I’m not sure how to interpret it, but I happen to know quite a few — and, by “quite a few,” I mean two or three — college-educated 20-something males who’ve dropped out of the knowledge economy entirely and are now pursuing hands-on work. One went from studying economics and Latin to building cabinets in just two years.

    This, I suspect, will become more common as the toxic mix of wokeness and bureaucratic stupidity in the white-collar world drives out conservatives (and especially conservative men).

    There are a significant number of jobs in such fields. They are satisfying and remunerative. They are as close to “resession-proof” as you are likely to find.

    I think of ex-catcher and later baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola’s line when a catcher on the field was having problems: “It’s days like this that made me wish that I had listened to my mother and gone to HVAC school.”

    The only thing keeping these people trapped in the higher-education racket, I think, is the necessary social function colleges provide, especially for people with elite interests or aspirations. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: College is (or was, before COVID) the only semi-functional social institution remaining in America, and the only place where people with similar interests and backgrounds can expect to meet each other.

    In an ideal world, we might have rigorous primary education in the classical or homeschooling model, followed by vocational or professional training (or college, for a select few), and also something like salon culture. In other words, it’d look a lot like our own past.

    • #16
    • October 20, 2020, at 4:18 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. Randy Webster Member

    Dr. Bastiat: What is their plan?

    Plan?

    • #17
    • October 20, 2020, at 4:20 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    TBA (View Comment):
    I’m smart, and I have self-esteem. So I deserve a doctorate in gluing ideas together.

    You can enroll in my on-line doctoral program in Tacky Ideology. You will be the first graduate.

    • #18
    • October 20, 2020, at 9:47 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. JustmeinAZ Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: What is their plan?

    Plan?

    Even students who pursue fairly traditional subjects like psychology or sociology (not my cup of tea, but, whatever) frequently do not have a plan. I used to listen to Dave Ramsey fairly often and he would read the riot act to thirty-year-old social workers who had college debt in six figures and were making 25K per year. They wanted to know how to get out of debt. Duh.

    • #19
    • October 20, 2020, at 10:19 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    master’s degree in: Advanced Puppetry

    Just think about that.

    • #20
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:36 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat: wayfinding in complex settings

    Like, getting out of a corn maze? Or what? 

    • #21
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:37 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Kephalithos Member

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment): Even students who pursue fairly traditional subjects like psychology or sociology (not my cup of tea, but, whatever) frequently do not have a plan. I used to listen to Dave Ramsey fairly often and he would read the riot act to thirty-year-old social workers who had college debt in six figures and were making 25K per year. They wanted to know how to get out of debt. Duh.

    Plenty of people have a plan. What they don’t have is a backup plan.

    • #22
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:29 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: wayfinding in complex settings

    Like, getting out of a corn maze? Or what?

    How would I know? I don’t have a master’s degree in behavioral geography.

    • #23
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:41 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: wayfinding in complex settings

    Like, getting out of a corn maze? Or what?

    • #24
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:41 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  25. JustmeinAZ Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: wayfinding in complex settings

    Like, getting out of a corn maze? Or what?

    Now, that’s just plain mean!

    • #25
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:46 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. Seawriter Contributor

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: wayfinding in complex settings

    Like, getting out of a corn maze? Or what?

    Now, that’s just plain mean!

    As Glenn Reynolds would say, “Harsh, but fair.”

    • #26
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:51 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  27. The Reticulator Member

    Dr. Bastiat: Today on Powerline, Steven Hayward quoted a paper from “Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist.” I thought, “Huh?” So I looked up environmental psychology on Wikipedia: “Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines the way in which the natural environment and our built environments shape us as individuals … The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior.”

    Sounds Rousseauian.

    • #27
    • October 21, 2020, at 7:15 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Today on Powerline, Steven Hayward quoted a paper from “Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist.” I thought, “Huh?” So I looked up environmental psychology on Wikipedia: “Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines the way in which the natural environment and our built environments shape us as individuals … The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior.”

    Sounds Rousseauian.

    Aw c’mon – it’s not that absurd…

    • #28
    • October 21, 2020, at 7:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. J Climacus Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    My favorite so far has been the Occupy Wall Street protestor who lamented that he couldn’t find a job in the field of study that he had a master’s degree in: Advanced Puppetry.

    I remember that guy. He was deep in the hole in college loans to get that Puppetry degree, and was outraged there wasn’t a high-paying puppetry job waiting for him that would help him pay the loans off.

    Although this guy is a fool, the real outrage is the gov’t guaranteed loan programs that permitted a fool like this to be taken advantage of. 

    • #29
    • October 21, 2020, at 8:12 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  30. Suspira Member

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    master’s degree in: Advanced Puppetry

    Just think about that.

    I’d just like to know the title of his thesis.

    • #30
    • October 21, 2020, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • 5 likes