Trump Has An Apprentice Program, What About You?

Camille Paglia’s writing is a pleasure to read. Her latest contribution to The Chronicle of Higher Education chops academia off at the knee.

Jobs, and the preparation of students for them, should be front and center in the thinking of educators. The idea that college is a contemplative realm of humanistic inquiry, removed from vulgar material needs, is nonsense. The humanities have been gutted by four decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics. They bear little relationship to the liberal arts of broad perspective and profound erudition that I was lucky enough to experience in college in the 1960s.
Having taught in art schools for most of my four decades in the classroom, I am used to having students who work with their hands–ceramicists, weavers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jazz drummers. There is a calm, centered, Zen-like engagement with the physical world in their lives. In contrast, I see glib, cynical, neurotic elite-school graduates roiling everywhere in journalism and the media. They have been ill-served by their trendy, word-centered educations.

Damn woman, tell us how you really feel.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity.

Which brings me to the world of marketing communications. Is MarCom a guild? Or the opposite, a place for “glib, cynical, neurotic” liberal arts grads who, for whatever reason, did not go into law, publishing or insurance?
Lots of people think agencies provide a service, not a product. However, some of the best agencies believe the communications they make are, in fact, custom made products. Both points of view are valid. In the end, we serve our client’s needs with the custom “products” we make. One thing I know for certain, you’re not going to learn the art of making ads in college. It requires on-the-job training. Which brings us back to Paglia’s guild concept.
The ad business figured out long ago that it needed professional finishing schools to handle the basic introductions to the guild. I’m now wondering if outsourcing the job to a school, or schools, was the best move. Some agencies have created schools within their own walls, but even there you have division. Who among us is willing to work hand-in-hand with the eager and highly skilled apprentices knocking on our doors?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.