Let's All Calm Down About the Yahoo Ag Degree Article

Prairie Gleanings

The Yahoo article is a piece of junk. Even if it was well-research, the basic facts say they're wrong. Will this really hurt college recruiting?

Published on: January 26, 2012
I’ve never seen so much outrage over something that doesn't deserve a second thought. I’m speaking of Terence Loose’s “College Majors That Are Useless” article.

Everyone in the ag industry is up in arms over this piece of terrible journalism. Calm down folks, it’s Yahoo, which in my mind is a step or two above the National Enquirer in terms of news quality. At this very moment, three of the top five news items aren’t even news (a ball boy made an amazing catch at the Australian Open, something about a game show secret, and a report on Katherine Heigl’s fashion sense).

That said, I’ll also point out that Loose interviewed one person for his brilliant piece. His name is Laurence Shatkin. He has a Ph.D. in English (not sure how that qualifies you as a career expert). From the looks of it, he publishes a new career choice book every few months. I may be wrong, but he strikes me as the type of person whose knowledge base is four miles wide and about an inch deep. I doubt he could tell the difference between corn and soybeans in July.

Shatkin was the only person Loose decided to actually interview for this article. Any well-researched article should have a minimum of two sources. From the looks of it, Shatkin probably provided some ramblings on what jobs he didn’t like; and Loose took to Google (or maybe Yahoo) to dig up some statistics to back him up.

At the end of the day, who does this article actually hurt? While I do not have the statistics to back this up, I would wager most ag-related majors are composed of folks who grew up on or around the farm. These folks are not going to suddenly be swayed to chemical engineering. This is what they want to do.

So, perhaps the folks who were considering ag, but did not grow up on a farm, may be giving it a second thought. Are there a lot of these folks? Do we now have thousands of urban high school seniors thinking, “Well, I was going to get a degree in ag, but I just read that report on Yahoo. I better get a business degree.”? I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Perhaps I’m a little desensitized to these types of ignorant career choice articles. Journalism usually finds its way onto every worst list.

By the way, just because I don’t care enough to write a letter to the editor doesn’t mean I think Shatkin is correct. He’s obviously wrong. The simple fact that our population is growing by leaps and bounds means we’ll need more experts to research the science of producing food. India and China’s hunger for more protein means animal science degrees will be in high demand.

Agriculture is one of the things the U.S. does extremely well. You can export manufacturing and even accounting jobs overseas. I’ve never seen anyone ship 100 acres to China so it could be farmed more cost effectively.

To sum up, we do ag extremely well. Demand for ag products will only increase. Yep, sounds like folks with ag degrees will have a tough time finding jobs. How stupid!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Josh, I appreciate the thought and we probably should calm down. But, with only 2 percent of our population actually being "farmers" - how would you suggest we fill the need for the wide breadth of agricultural jobs with only kids who grew up on a farm? And, if they all go into "industry" type jobs - who will farm? We need students from all walks of life to consider agriculture degrees. You don't have to be from a farm to succeed in any of these careers. Take plant breeding for example. Our country is in a shortage for people in this career - what if a suburban student really interested in science who would excel in this career views an agriculture major as a waste because of this article? Again, I appreciate your thought. Those of us in the agriculture industry take quite pride in our backgrounds. But, don't ignore the fact that we also need people from a variety of backgrounds to fill these jobs.