Senator Marco Rubio stood out during Tuesday’s Republican debate as the only candidate to raise higher education as an issue. The Florida senator criticized an “outdated” higher education system. “It is too expensive, too hard to access, and it doesn't teach 21st-century skills,” he said. On the campaign trail, Rubio has similarly been critical of traditional higher education.
As he has on previous occasions, Rubio on Tuesday also singled out liberal arts education for special criticism, calling for a greater focus on vocational training.
“I don't know why we have stigmatized vocational education,” he said. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
Later, in his closing statement, Rubio lamented that many Americans have “thousands of dollars in student loans -- for a degree that doesn’t lead to a job.”
Gawker pointed out after the debate that Rubio was incorrect in stating that welders earn more than philosophers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for postsecondary philosophy and religion instructors is $63,630, while the median for welders and related fields is $37,420.
On one of the other times Rubio criticized philosophy, Amy E. Ferrer, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, said, “Rubio's refrain about the value of philosophy is unfortunate -- and misinformed. Philosophy teaches many of the skills most valued in today's economy: critical thinking, analysis, effective written and verbal communication, problem solving, and more. And philosophy majors' success is borne out in both data -- which show that philosophy majors consistently outperform nearly all other majors on graduate entrance exams such as the GRE and LSAT, and that philosophy ties with mathematics for the highest percentage increase from starting to midcareer salary.”