Wednesday, 21 July 2004

The things they learn at camp these days

When I went to summer camp, all we learned was how to tie square knots and clove hitches. But Tyler Cowen’s daughter is learning a lot more in the Center for Talented Youth program at Johns Hopkins.

Yana, who is fourteen, took a class on the philosophy of mind. She just started another class on the French and Russian Revolutions. This is her third year there, she calls herself a CTY addict. The year before she did Latin. This time we had her for two days between sessions. I heard about modal logic, Newcomb's Paradox, and mind-body reductionism. Yana now knows why she believes in free will, and why she doesn't want to be an undergraduate philosophy major.

Apparently they’re warning these kids about the state of the philosophy job market.


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Sad, but true:

When I declared my philosophy major as a second major to complement my English major, I told my philosophy advisor that I was doing it to ensure I could get a job when I graduated, because the English degree wouldn’t do it, and he agreed.


I’ve gotten further in the world of work by being able to operate a Hobart commercial dishwasher than by having a degree in philosophy. I knew, come graduation day, it was either go to grad school or go back to Hardee’s . . .


Hey, here’s what my English/Philosophy degree got me in the first three years out of college:

  • Telemarketing fundraiser.
  • Grocery store clerk.
  • Market research assistant.
  • Computer shop "man Friday"/computer assembler.
  • Shipping/receiving clerk.
  • Produce clerk.
  • Printing press operator.

Fortunately, I stumbled over an IT job soon thereafter and haven’t picked myself up since.


My dad teaches at the Hopkins “nerd camp” and spends most of his time dealing with (a) obnoxious aggressive New York parents and (b) their spoiled under-socialized kids. He says there is hope, if you can get them to socialize in a reasonably normal environment. Not all of these kids are scary smart.

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