Worth of Academia/Liberal Arts

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Uchi Mata, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    I'm very interested in higher education both from an economic perspective and more generally as an institution which exerts a powerful effect upon American society. I've been reading a lot lately about the shift away from liberal arts, tenure track faculty, in general away from the structure of academia for most of the 20th century. An example paper:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/160410/faulty-towers-crisis-higher-education?page=0,3

    A lot of these screeds carry a similar warning: as universities are viewed more and more as career training rather than centers of humanist education their core mission of creating an educated citizenry is being subsumed, and that this is bad for society. I'm of two minds about this.

    On the one hand I do think there is some value to a classical humanist education in arts and letters. I think it makes people more thoughtful and open to the world around them and informs political, moral, and ethical decision making. As such the squeeze being put on humanities departments worsens us as a society.

    On the other hand college is very, very expensive, even as it becomes almost a requirement for a middle class life. Unemployment is a lot lower among engineering grads than humanities grads, and engineering grads arguably make greater contributions to the economy and nation than English majors. Much of the cost of universities goes into sponsoring departments that do basic research that very few people read or care about; philosophy departments dick around with word puzzles, English departments study queer theory in Shakespeare, in general academic humanities have become very disconnected from any semblance of relevance to the vast majority of people. The university tradition venerates classical education but when universities were founded there wasn't much else to study but classics (e.g. no computer science in the 16th century), and as only the already-rich aristocracy went to university you could afford to ignore career training. That is no longer the case, and universities need to adapt to changing economic and social conditions like everyone else.

    What say you F54? Are universities in danger of losing what is most valuable about them as humanities departments shrink and disappear, or is that just an outward sign of an institution shedding the irrelevant trappings of its past as it grows into its future?
     
  2. Chesten_Hesten

    Chesten_Hesten The Wiener of Steel

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    Biggest gain from say a study of philosophy is realizing what you become along the way.

    Money may or may not play into it at all, and a University isn't the only path to attaining it.
     
  3. shunyata

    shunyata Red Belt

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    Universities doomed themselves to this by massively inflating the cost of degrees over the last 40 years.


    Less than 2% of employers who are hiring new grads are looking for people with liberal arts degrees.

    On the other hand, science majors do great. Health sciences, computer sciences, and engineering are all stable or expanding job markets.

    The way the universities have inflated their own cost of attendance, they have guaranteed that studying liberal arts as a major is now an incredibly bad business decision.
     
  4. Damien Karras

    Damien Karras Mirabile dichtu, don't you agree?

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    a bad business decision for universities or for the individual?
     
  5. Satsui Ryu

    Satsui Ryu Black Belt

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    The degrees are kind of useless, but I still feel they are a necessary part of the curriculum. Not all thinking is mathematical so to have overall success liberal arts is very necessary.
     
  6. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    I've read a fair amount of philosophy, the only formal philosophy classes I ever took were logic (awesome, btw). Likewise I'm pretty well read but I never took an English or Lit class at the collegiate level. Granted you can teach yourself a lot of technical skills as well, but if a degree is the key to a job do you want a degree saying you can interpret Chekhov or a degree saying you can engineer software? I've certainly reaped a lot of value from humanities education but I haven't ever gotten any value from my humanities degree. Only my business degrees have helped me actually get jobs.

    I realize that most professors recoil from the idea that the degree is more important to most people than the knowledge, but that begs the question of whether or not you really need the professor to get the knowledge or rather if you just need the professor (and the whole academic establishment) to get the certification.
     
  7. Damien Karras

    Damien Karras Mirabile dichtu, don't you agree?

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    My take is that it does develop your critical thinking, but at 30 000 per year tuition it is a huge gamble to go for that kind of a degree.
     
  8. Jack V Savage

    Jack V Savage Secretary of Keepin' It Real/Nicest Guy on Sherdog

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    I think it's all going to be moot soon enough as technological progress continues. To answer your last sentence though, yes, universities in danger of losing what is most valuable about them as humanities departments shrink and disappear.

    A humanities degree from an elite university is still very valuable, though.
     
  9. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    Any degree from an elite university is valuable, because of the signalling function of getting into an elite university. In other words, it's valuable to get into Harvard regardless of what you learn at Harvard. It's your intelligence/elite cred, even if that ignores the actual sausage making of getting into an Ivy.
     
  10. Chesten_Hesten

    Chesten_Hesten The Wiener of Steel

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    ...Yes.
     
  11. shunyata

    shunyata Red Belt

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    For the individual student, a liberal arts degree is a bad investment decision.
     
  12. Devout Pessimist

    Devout Pessimist Catholic Retrograde

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    Identity Politics are ruining universities.
     
  13. lts5025

    lts5025 "What the **** is a Dim Mack?"

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    I think a lot of the problem is that 30, 40, 50 years ago, a college degree was rare enough that a bachelor's degree in itself was enough to ensure you a career in middle management at the very least. And, back then, a college education was a lot more well-rounded, so even a sociology or humanities major was assumed to be able to do college-level math, and have an ability to read and comprehend, as well as write clearly and concisely. More than enough qualification to manage a workforce where only 70-80% of workers even graduated from high school.

    Now, unfortunately, a bachelor's degree is so ubiquitous and has lost so much meaning that it might as well be a GED. Unprecedented access to colleges in general, as well as the rise of online colleges means that the degree has been watered down, and the requirements to receive one have gotten so simple that many college grads still can't do basic math or write a cohesive paragraph.

    I work in a college town and interact with a great number of college students, some who are brilliant, mostly physics and comp sci majors, and some kids who are seemingly defying great odds by not getting run over by a car on a daily basis. These are usually communications or human development majors.
     
  14. 7437

    7437 Gold Belt

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    You got a degree that doesnt require english comp 1? from where?
     
  15. Jack V Savage

    Jack V Savage Secretary of Keepin' It Real/Nicest Guy on Sherdog

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    Sure. It actually makes sense that lesser students should be looking at job training, and the cream of the crop should be contributing to the intellectual life of the country. But the problem is that you have a lot of students who are in the intellectual elite but are lower on the social scale and thus are considerably less likely to apply for/attend/graduate from elite schools.

    What do you think about this thread? I could be mistaking you for someone else, but haven't you praised Bloom's CotAM here before? Seems like his position on this issue would be pretty clear.
     
  16. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    I had a lot of AP credit coming in. All my English requirements were already done from high school. I also didn't have to take any history or economics (though I did take some). I think the only true liberal arts stuff I took were formal logic and Latin, to fulfill language requirements. Other than that I mostly took psych classes (for my degree) and later math, stats, and business after I realized a psych degree alone wasn't going to get me very far.
     
  17. UpaLoompa

    UpaLoompa Grand Quasiprophet of the Sakaran Apocolyps

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    On what objective basis do you base this view on?

    Your hatred of feminism--which is just downright weird--doesn't count as an objective basis.
     
  18. Hagelslag2

    Hagelslag2 Brown Belt

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    It really depends on what programme you're enrolled in. In July I'll graduate from the top-ranked LAS programme here in the Netherlands and most, if not all, of my friends got accepted into the Master's programme of their choice. I myself am starting a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience in September, while several of my friends have been accepted into programmes at Oxford, LSE and UCL. Others go on to work at embassies or in think tanks. If done right, a LAS degree can be just as valuable as any other degree.
     
  19. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    I'm not familiar with that book so I don't think I would have praised it specifically, though reading the Wikipedia blurb I think there are parts I'd like and parts I'd disagree with. Whether or not the academy has a role to play in moral instruction as opposed to just academic instruction is a very different discussion than the one I started the thread to have, though no less interesting. That seems to be what Bloom was focusing on, the worth or current humanities instruction. But it doesn't sound like he was questioning the value in the first place, just the value of teaching humanities from a point of view of moral relativism/deconstructionism.

    edit: thought you were talking to me.
     
  20. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    So...you're graduating from liberal arts and continuing yours studies in a scientific discipline? There's a lot more market demand for neuroscientists than English majors, I don't know if your personal experience is the best argument if what your LAS degree got you was the chance to get a scientific degree so you could actually get a job.
     

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