was old enough to know that their degree in Religious Studies and Art History was not going to pay the bills
To a lot of employers a degree was proof that you would be able to get up in the morning, turn up for work and be able to figure out what to do with simple paperwork. The actual content didn't matter a lot for non-technical jobs until there were so many unemployed around that recent graduates had a lot of competition.
Some people who did those degrees you are contemptuous of some years ago see those of us who completed degrees based on science and technology as "the little people" who were "not taught people skills" and are working as management. So while it may seem a stupid idea to do such courses now it was not in the past, may not be in the future and possibly isn't really that much of a stupid idea now. What was stupid in hindsight was what I did - an engineering degree with a tight focus on manufacturing inspired by an approaching obvious manufacturing boom. It was stupid because the boom happened in China while engineers were laid off elsewhere.