Below is the letter I emailed to Mr. Terence Loose regarding this article:
Dear Mr. Loose,
My name is Rebekah Bowen. I am a graduate student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication with an emphasis in Communication and Social Media.
I grew up on a small family farm in South Georgia, where I learned the value of faith, family and hard work. I was raised being an active part of both 4-H and FFA youth development organizations which have taught me many life skills and helped encourage me to seek a degree in an area I was passionate about.
This led me to study Agricultural Communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (A.S., 2007), the University of Georgia (B.S., Magna Cum Laud, 2010) and the University of Tennessee (M.S., 2012). These degrees which you have called “Useless” have provided me with learning experiences that are very diverse and have equipped me to pursue a job in many different areas. As I look toward graduation in May, I am actively applying for jobs. While many of my friends who will be graduating in May face an uncertain future in the job market, I find that I am highly qualified (Thanks to those “useless” degrees!) to apply for a plethora of jobs. Not only am I qualified to apply for these jobs, but there are actually job openings available that I am highly interested in. Some of the companies offering these jobs are Cargill , DOW AgroSciences, Monsanto, DuPont, Tyson, Alltech, John Deere and many, many others! The website AgCareers currently has over 2,000 open agriculture related jobs posted on their website.
Also, because the agriculture program at most universities offers a variety of diverse opportunities, I also have a lot of real world experience to add to my resume. This includes teaching college-level courses, developing leadership workshops for high school students, administrative experience with a University-related non-profit, attending regional and national conferences and conventions, and many others.
I am a firm believer in the 1st Amendment right that journalists have to write things that other people (in this case, the Agriculture Industry) may not like; however, I also believe that all journalists should use this right only in accordance with the SPJ Code of Ethics. You have heard of those, right? I am highly convinced that your article, “College Majors That Are Useless,” is in direct conflict with the first of these ethics–Seek Truth and Report It. The article states that Agriculture, Animal Science and Horticulture are three of the top five most useless college degrees. However, the sources that were cited are misconstrued and can be considered irrelevant to the claims that are listed in your article.
The first source listed was the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study (which can be purchased here for $49.95). You stated that this report represented over 1,000 employers, which may be true. The more relevant number, however, is that the report only surveyed 244 organizations. While I have not read the report, I would be willing to bet that NONE of these 244 organizations were from the agricultural industry. Obviously, Goldman Sachs will not be hiring Agriculture, Animal Science or Horticulture majors. Secondly, a large majority of students who graduate with agriculture-related degrees do one of three things: (1) start their own business, (2) work on their family farm or (3) get a job with a major agriculture company like the ones I listed above. Therefore, the results of this report (However valid and reliable it may be!) are totally irrelevant to the field of agriculture.
The second source listed (available here) is questionable at best because of its lack of substantiated evidence. The article provides no sources for its many statistics about pay scales and employment. This is not only bad journalism, but could also be considered plagiarism. Finally, this source which you used is in direct conflict with another of your articles for Yahoo! Education. In that article, you argued that Pyschology is the 2nd most effective degree for graduates; however, the Daily Beast article ranks this as the 18th most useless degree. This would leave your readers quite confused about whether or not to bail on their Psychology major.
Please know that I wish you no personal ill will; however, I do feel that it is important that the standards and ethics of good journalism be upheld by those who are given the power to disseminate information, especially through such a large channel as Yahoo! Education. This is, sadly, where a large majority of our population gains their knowledge and it is important to ensure that the information we provide is accurate. In the case of the article you wrote, the information is simply inaccurate and misconstrued. Those of us in the Agricultural Community would greatly appreciate it if you would check your facts before writing such an article in the future.
An Agriculture Major
Please feel free to comment below or email your own letter to Mr. Terence Loose at firstname.lastname@example.org. As I am not a numerically minded person, I am leaving the statistical rebuttals up to more talented individuals. Finally, don’t forget to answer the poll and leave a comment if you have one!
UPDATE: It has come to my attention that it is difficult to locate the comment button. If you would like to leave a comment, or read comments that others have left on this post simply click here.