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22 June 2012


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STEM courses are not tocsins of any kind, neither are business courses. They are part of a well-rounded education, that's what colleges and universities should strive to instill in their graduates. The blindness of business (and those who are willing to serve it exclusively) is not recognizing that all these aspects of education lead to better employees, better bosses, and most of all better citizens.

rjj du Nord

I don't know what is meant by an "intellectual education." Intellect and intellectual seem to mean different things to different people. I should think four years of math-physics-chemistry would be one hell of an intellectual workout and more beneficial than eight semesters of litcrit bullshit (or whatever humbug has replaced it).

Though it is clear that

(1) many people prefer not to think, and
(2) some are completely unable to abstract.

SAC Brat

Can't. Help. Myself.



A fun blog. The writer does a good job of climbing into a character.

An older favorite of mine: http://www.paulbibeau.blogspot.com/2012/05/go-fuck-yourself-mitt-romney-by-jimmy.html

Better tomorrows to all here.

rjj du Nord

How does the process of making an installation/painting/sculpture teach one MORE about

critical thinking, creative problem solving, making artistic and aesthetic decisions ... ethics and morality

than the acquisition and practice of trades skills/craftsmanship.


Maybe we should consider auctioning off the office of the Presidency every four years. I know it didn't really work for Ancient Rome, but...

The Twisted Genius

Babak has a valid point. A vigorous four year plus liberal arts education is not for everyone. A trade school system coupled with apprenticeships would be ideal for many. However, even students in this system would benefit from a few core courses in the humanities. The reverse is also true. As an anthropology student at RPI in the 70s, I took calculus, physics, chemistry and biology. The engineers had to take a core curriculum in humanities and social sciences. I checked the current course catalog for RPI and found engineering students still have to take 24 credits in H&SS. The H&SS departments are not nearly as broad as they once were and they are now very technically oriented. But this is a technical institute. It is to be expected there.

On the other hand, universities like UVA should not strive to be trade schools. Strong programs in arts, humanities, social sciences and regional studies can produce critical thinkers capable of drawing on hundreds and thousands of years of human experience. Throw in some required math and science and the liberal arts education would be even better. The scientific method is a form of critical thinking. IMO the well moneyed barbarians attempting to take over the nation's educational institutions may not value a liberal arts education, but they also truly fear the critical thinkers that this kind of education produces.

The Twisted Genius

SAC Brat,

Thanks for that likkered up rant from Jimmy. it was hilarious. Last time I was likkered up on bourbon was at Fort Benning the night before my first jump. Ended up low crawling up the barracks stairs yelling SAT CONG! Fell asleep on the C-130 the next day.


So who gets to decide, a bunch of rich folks looking to cash in? Perhaps an income threshold, a standardized test or two? With 300,000,000+ citizens in the US I do not think the pool of people able to benefit from a Liberal Arts eduction is can be defined as small.


So the only scale of value is money? That seems to be a major problem in this culture.


Pat... than you for writing. This one is close to me.


I'm a current UVa student and I've been following the events of the past week with some horror and amusement. The little coup appears to be fading, the wind is shifting and Rector Dragas emails are growing ever more desperate. I expect Sullivan will return next week and Dragas will retreat in obscurity building luxury homes back in Virginia Beach.

I hope she stays there.

Her ideas will linger though, that's the painful part. UVa takes great pride in the Commerce School, our undergraduate MBA. It's a two year program, two years of trade school for those souls willing to give up the latter half of their liberal arts education.

Poor trade in my estimation, but then I'm one of those 'poor saps' who studies history and enjoys literature. I'm not one of those 'bold leaders' who'll bring 'strategic dynamism' to the world. I missed the chapter where Churchill took a few years off to get that Harvard MBA.


I've worked with people who've gone through the program. Many are smart, they could have taken other paths but they came to the conclusion that life is about money and they understood that Commerce was the quickest ticket to that first million. It probably is.

I think they're selling themselves short, but then we all make our own mistakes. You can't save people. God knows I'm a fool about something myself.

The other half, well. It just makes me sad. There are quite a few people here who aren't particularly gifted but they're stubborn and to their credit they work awfully hard. They slave themselves to the material and learn it to the exclusion of all else. The product is something awful, It just kills me in during a group project when someone gets up to talk and they just unload this useless gibberish. They utter phrases like 'creative destruction' as if it meant something real and drone on about leadership theory. They can't write, not in the way Mark Twain understood it. They also can't think, not the way generations of scholars understand the term. Instead they've learned the rubric for product optimization and how to price that 20oz soda just right.


I hope for our sakes that this isn't the future of education.


The liberal arts survived the PC assault of the 1990's and will survive this as well. However, we will all pay a price along the way.

r whitman

What was saved in Texas was the perks and privileges of a surprisingly unproductive senior tenured faculty and a top heavy, overpaid non-teaching academic administration.

rjj du Nord

Bright side: as everything goes the way of yesterday's lunch, so will the Mammonite Revolution with its Corporatist Commissars.

Cold War Zoomie

rjj du Nord,

I'm a telecom engineer but She Who Must Be Obeyed is an artist. One time she showed me some very rudimentary art exercises where we were to reproduce an object on paper by drawing it backwards or upside down, or something like that. The point I remember is that it required an incredible amount of focus, concentration, and especially decomposition - the ability to decompose what I saw in front of me into its most basic elements. What we telecom engineers would call systems analysis.

Her drawing looked like a photograph. And after a lot of hard thinking, mine still looked like shite.


I would suggest that obtaining a "Liberal Arts" education is the best way to see how pernicious this guy's assertions are.

Babak Makkinejad

That is what I am saying.

But a BA or BS now has become a "social good" to be distributed by the state (government).

These degree programs are not useful to the majority of students (96%) - they are better off in trades or professions with a more compressed curricula.

There is also the delusion that you can mass-produce Artists, Writers, Historians, or assorted other intellectuals.

Well, you cannot.

Highschool is were Liberal Arts education should be taught and where it should end for majority of students.

US is a commercial country, this is a salient feature of US that must be accepted. And students must be able to earn a living after graduation.

Why does any one want to create more waiters and waitresses with BA degrees?

Are there not enough of them at Starbucks?

Babak Makkinejad

I am saying that I cannot use a sociology major except for technical work.

You can. I assume, create and subsidize fake jobs to employ them in the various government positions; which is what many other countries do - the state as the employer of the last resort.

You owe a duty to the young people to inform them at least that they will be poor inspite of their BA and perhaps an Associate Degree will be more useful to them.

Babak Makkinejad

You live in dream world.

How many college Freshman do you think can do "Algebra II"?

Science for everyone?

That is a joke!


More to the point, the very term "liberal arts" came out of the fact that it is not useful for anything of immediate "practicality," thus "liberal" as in having your hands free. The term used since Middle Ages for "practical arts" was "mechanical arts." Ironically, though, most land grant colleges (a lot of state schools in US) are explicitly mandated to focus on promoting "mechanical arts" even as they are required not to sidestep the "liberal arts." I don't think turning a lot of universities to "trade schools" is not necessarily a bad thing.

What is worse, imho, is that we (universities) are not doing a too good a job at being trade schools either. A lot of college grads today are lacking in practical skills as well as deficient in deep understanding of their supposed academic majors. Personally, I'd happy to see a lot of colleges being turned into good "trade schools" instead of handing out useless BS/BA's en masse, while only some should be retained as "real universities" for those who are actually interested in more esoteric pursuits. However, both reforms would require high schools being sufficiently reformed so that high schools grads are actually competent to do serious studies, whether of the practical or the abstract.

rjj du Nord

keep doing it and yours will stop looking like shite. That focus is a special state. Easy to resist getting into for some reason.

Not disparaging AHT (narrow sense). Object to hobbling the term with a mingy definition. Techne is also art or rather can be- depends how it is done. Same can be said for commerce. A beautifully run business enhances the economy, the civic culture (ethos????), and the quality of life of a place.


du Nord

You are realyy stretching for argument. Yes, I have a neighborhood family owned garage that is a marvel to behold. Yes, IBM's Armonk headquarters is fine architecture, but I was in business for ten years and still consult for large offshore firms and I assure you that the business view of life is about one thing, "the bottom line," and nothing else. IBM has a wnderful headquarters but they think nothing of transferring jobs and income overseas, like to China. BTW, all the really great foreign businessmen I have known were classically educated and had MBAs working for them. pl


I believe the auction is titled "Citizen's United'. Courtesy of a non-activist 'c' conservative supreme court.


Thanks for informing me of my 'duty'. Who put you in charge of deciding who is capable of intellectual education?


Is it self-evident that you know what you are talking about? So what if a majority of BA graduates don't get rich?



I had multiple years of technical training and went a good ways toward a BEEE before changing to an Econ degree with an anthropology minor. I'd already done a decade of hands on engineering and didn't see spending a couple of more years learning (or at least getting credit for) engineering theory so I could go on doing the same this I had been doing for a couple grand a year more as a thing I wanted to invest years on my life doing. I'm much happier with the professional and personal opportunities available by not being a BEEE with a PE. The reverse is certainly true for allot of folks, but they should be able to decide that for themselves.

As I see it the thing that would be beneficial for society, and for individual students, is to avoid beating the enjoyment of learning out students in an effort to achieve some statistical result on a damn standardized test.

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