Matt Forney
Spread the Word!

Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major by Aaron Clarey

worthlessThis review in one sentence: Man, I wish this book was around six years ago.

Aaron Clarey (aka Captain Capitalism) is on a mission to save America’s youth from throwing away their money and time on useless college majors. That’s the purpose of Worthless; educate youth as to why most majors are worthless and expose the gigantic conspiracy to get young’uns to sell themselves into debt slavery for a Master’s in Puppetry.

Much of the content of Worthless is pretty standard fare for the kinds of people in this section of the blogosphere: most non-STEM degrees are a waste, any degree that doesn’t involve math is a waste, and the entirety of American academia is a scam designed to bleed students dry and enrich itself at any cost. What separates Worthless from the avalanche of “you stupid kids shoulda majored in something useful!” finger-wagging coming from the media today is that Clarey is blunt and sympathetic. He recognizes that while yes, teenagers are making dumb decisions, their elders (Generation X and the Baby Boomers) are actively encouraging them to make dumb decisions, either because they themselves are ignorant or they stand to profit off of those dumb decisions.

Smart as you may think you are, you aren’t the only one to come up with the genius diabolical plot to major in a cake subject and then somehow hope you land some kind of easy, government, non-profit type job. Matter of fact, two entire generations before you came up with that exact same idea! Millions of people before you also majored in Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Communications, English and all the other worthless degrees. Where do you suppose they ended up?

This is why Worthless is such a powerful and important book; it not only offers practical advice, it illustrates the big picture in an easy-to-understand way. Clarey doesn’t sugarcoat the truth, but he isn’t needlessly hostile or antagonistic either. Because of this, as Frost wrote last week, his book actually stands a good chance of altering peoples’ thinking.

My biggest beef with Worthless is a bit irrelevant to its purpose, but I’ll get it out there anyway. Clarey, like most writers on this subject, urges young college-goers to major in STEM disciplines or learn a trade because those are the only disciplines that are in any kind of demand. The problem is that if everyone (or a critical mass of students) were to follow this advice, we’d be back at square one; a glut of graduates, not enough jobs for them.

The ultimate problem here isn’t useless college majors, it’s the uselessness of college itself.

If the institution of college isn’t going to be burned to the ground, it needs to be radically reformed. Having a bachelor’s degree should not be a minimum requirement to enter the middle class, because only a small minority of the population needs to go to college (the ones majoring in something worthwhile). Kids interested in entrepreneurship should be encouraged to start businesses instead of going to college and so on. But again, since Worthless’ purpose is to advise kids on how to plan their futures, and not about reforming the American educational establishment, this is not that important.

Bottom line: if you’re a teenager planning on going to college, buy this book. If you have a son or daughter planning on going to college, buy them this book. If you have a friend or SO planning on going to college, buy them this book. It’s way cheaper than tuition and can be read in a single afternoon.

Click here to buy Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major.

Read Next: The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

  • College today isn’t entirely worthless so long as it’s on someone else’s dime, or you can afford to pay for some of it without going in the hole.

    As a former philosophy major over 20 years ago, my degree was worthless in getting a job, but I also grew up in a time when the prevailing philosophy (no pun intended) was that, “if you get a degree in anything, a company will train you to be their cog.” So, I was partially ignorant. I was also ignorant of wider economic trends. Sad for me.

    On the bright side, I graduated with minimal debt and so wasn’t prohibited from trying things out in order to “find myself.” Would I do that nowadays? Hell no . . . If I were 18 years old now, I certainly would be devouring the information on the Net as much as I could and THEN make more informed decisions. If nothing else, my degree program and bad experiences taught me the importance of making informed decisions based on sound research and critical thinking. But, of course, I also had to learn how to use the library in order to do the research. :)

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  • One thing I think the American idea of “STEM, have a job already lined-up or learn a trade” misses is a very flexible area: languages. Unless you have the advantage of becoming bilingual/a polyglot before the age of 7, most people need help and tutoring learning a language. Of course, you can do what I’m doing and get individual, less expensive qualifications, study the language on your own with a few lessons and get work as a private tutor or translator. But the doors really open up when you have a degree in one of the languages you specialize in:
    -translating for big companies and legal firms
    -translating literary texts
    -writing/editing/reviewing academic literature
    -private tutoring
    -exam support
    -integration support for foreign children
    Best of all, these are all IDEAL jobs for a young woman. You get a lot of money per hour (comparative to that job at mcdonald’s a women’s studies degree gets you, at least), so you don’t need to work as many hours. You work largely from home, so you can do it whilst having a family. The qualifications are easy enough for even the laziest of people to get one. You arrange your own schedule. You can pass valuable skills down to your children. You don’t suffocate the job-market, as you’re employed based on skills and experience, not the degree itself (it’s just the door-opener). I found my niche with languages and I think a lot of people could benefit from seeing them as subjects with potential.

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