It took decades and, at times, antagonistic battles, but Harvard's gay community says it has finally cemented its academic legitimacy at the nation's oldest university. College officials will announce today that they will establish an endowed chair in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, in what is believed to be the first professorship of its kind in the country.
Can the adults among us agree that a degree in LGBT studies has about zero economic value? Even a history degree has more economic value, as history studies tend to still be accompanied by some academic rigor. But the pathetic scholarship standards and non-existant statistical rigor with which most social sciences, and various [fill in the blank with oppressed group] studies departments in particular, are taught make the economic value of such a degree at best zero and at worst a negative.
I have no problem with anyone studying whatever they wish using their own resources. This is one place I diverge with Ayn Rand -- she might say that pursuing non-productive activity is inherently immoral. I would say that pursuing your own goals, whatever they be and however valuable or valueless they might be to others, is just fine as long as you don't demand that everyone else to support you.
The problem is that a degree at Harvard probably requires a $200,000 investment to complete. Given that, beyond a few career spots in academia, a LGBT studies degree is unlikely to ever recover enough (versus having no degree) to pay for such an investment, problems are inevitable. Either someone (read: taxpayers) will likely foot the bill, or else some student is going to find herself with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt and no realistic way to pay it back.
In fact, this latter situation is a common leitmotif of recent media stories, the college grad unable to handle his or her shocking debt load. Somehow, stories all seem to blame the capitalist system as a failure point. Michelle Obama, who similarly pursued [historically oppressed group] studies at Princeton, has expressed just this point of view.
Despite their Ivy League pedigrees and good salaries, Michelle Obama often says the fact that she and her husband are out of debt is due to sheer luck, because they could not have predicted that his two books would become bestsellers. "It was like, 'Let's put all our money on red!' " she told a crowd at Ohio State University on Friday. "It wasn't a financial plan! We were lucky! And it shouldn't have been based on luck, because we worked hard."
Is this problem really so hard to diagnose, or have we gotten so politically correct we cannot state a fact out loud that everyone understands -- that is, some degrees have more economic power than others. LGBT studies degrees likely have very little economic utility. So it is fine to pursue such a degree, but don't be surprised when you are not offered a six-figure income at graduation, and don't come to me expecting that I pay for your choice.