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Interesting how Tim Parks distinguishes book content in relation to the manner of career writer, writing them.

This makes me think of the purpose of university education, a lot of people position it solely as something you do in order to get a job. Though I also believe the job you get after university can be completely beside the point (unless of course you're doing something that requires a very specialized set of training, like a surgeon).

For example, I see no reason not to get a degree for the sake of gaining deep understanding from (hopefully) wise people and just for your own edification. However, the "to get a job" rationale dominates so much, perhaps that's in part what has led to much of the career writer path that Tim Parks describes.
Since when did being a writer become a career choice, with appropriate degree courses and pecking orders? Does this state of affairs make any difference to what gets written? At school we were taught ...
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I can list several reasons why not to, as you put it "get a degree for the sake of gaining deep understanding from (hopefully) wise people and just for your own edification." The first of which is the prohibitive cost of education, and (assuming you don't mind being in debt for your whole life) the necessity of working in order to pay living expenses. Not on topic with the article exactly... but honestly I'd give my right arm to go back to school and study the things that interest me. But it's impossible to do so unless I win the lottery or marry rich.
Yeah, probably what you've raised, goes to the heart of the matter. I think a lot of it has to do with how people decide to approach things. Not all university educations are prohibitive, in many countries top universities are very affordable, sometimes even free. Unfortunately, I know that in some places the costs are very high, reflecting on the social/political outlook of people in those regions. Even so, sometimes with scholarships and loans, there are ways to make it more feasible.

I have a degree in philosophy. Although my career path has taken me into a very different field, that degree has enriched my life considerably (which I'd hoped it would from the start). Having done that is far more valuable to me than some of the alternatives I might have chosen, which would have led directly to a career in their field. Frankly while it's not directly related, that degree has actually helped me with my career in unexpected ways. Another example, my wife has a degree in art. She's succeeding in a mostly unrelated career but I think the degree has certainly enriched her life.

It's also worth noting that old study (I don't recall where it came from) that found that most people tend to change careers something like seven times in their lives. If that's what you can expect, then your degree is probably not going to be a guarantee on your career.

Anyway, all this is to say that on the one hand, what you brought up as a prohibitive cost is really, in my opinion too bad because I think that problem pushes the notion that people have no alternative but to go to university for the sole purpose of gaining the necessary degree for a related job. And that, that is probably a good part of the impetus behind what the writer of the article lamented in the way writing courses are approached and in the way the "career writer" seems to operate.
There are many jobs that require a specific degree, though. My husband is an engineer, and he would not have been able to become an engineer without the degree. So he specifically attended university to attain the education that would allow him to work in his chosen profession. It almost sounds as though you're saying people shouldn't be driven to pursue employment in specific fields. If, upon graduating from high school, you decide you want to work in a specific field, isn't the most obvious way to gain entry into that field through education? Maybe not in the arts... but certainly for other careers.
I totally agree that we should pursue education in the things that interest us, and that whatever we learn is applicable in so many ways, not just as training for a career. And someday, I truly hope I can do so. Not because I want to change careers -- I love being a graphic designer -- but I really want to study botany. I just don't know how to do that. It's impossible to work full time (because otherwise I can't pay my bills) AND go to school, AND raise my child. There aren't enough hours in the day. I feel that this sort of thinking only applies to the rich.
Ah, I didn't mean to imply that people shouldn't pursue an education in order to apply it to a specific profession. Actually, that's why I tried to make a point of citing the example of a doctor... a lot of careers require the in-depth rigorous learning involved in a specific degree. If that's where a person's interest lies then by all means, I think they ought to pursue it.

My argument is smaller. It's that that career-based goal for university has frequently become the only reason people consider for going. It's one good reason among several but it's one that I think increasingly dominates at the detriment of the others.

I can't really speak to the "rich" part though. It sounds like where you're living, the options are maybe not so helpful for your situation. There's a lot of people in different situations where that wouldn't apply though.
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