Philosophy majors fire back at Marco Rubio over debate zinger

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was applauded at Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate when he called for easier access to vocational schools.

“For the life of me I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education,“ Rubio said. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

The line drew a roar from the audience in Milwaukee — and a groan from philosophy majors watching at home.


Meanwhile, Rubio’s claim that welders make more money than philosophers was quickly debunked.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, philosophy and religion teachers earn about $71,000 per year. Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers make roughly $40,000 annually.

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Chart: Alison Griswold/Slate

“Marco Rubio says welders make more money than philosophers do,” Slate’s Alison Griswold wrote. “He’s wrong.”

And as the Week’s Catherine Garcia pointed out, there are plenty of examples of wealthy philosophy majors: PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel; hedge fund manager George Soros; and activist investor Carl Icahn, who recently endorsed Donald Trump for president.

One person who could’ve immediately corrected Rubio was standing a few feet away on the debate stage: Carly Fiorina, who graduated from Stanford with degrees in medieval history and philosophy before becoming the chief executive at Hewlett Packard.

Rubio isn’t the only politician to draw the ire of certain degree earners.

Last year, President Barack Obama took a dig at art history majors in a speech about jobs.

“I promise you folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” Obama said. “Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history. So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.”

But that didn’t stop Ann Collins Johns, a University of Texas art historian, from firing off an email to Obama through the White House website.

The president sent her a handwritten apology.

“Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks,” Obama wrote. “I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed.”

Rubio called the president’s apology “pathetic.”

“Pathetic Obama apology to art history prof,” Rubio tweeted. “We do need more degrees that lead to #jobs.”