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mamaraby

The decline of a true liberal arts education?

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My goal is to give my kids the good well rounded liberal arts education so that they don’t have to worry so much about this question. Should they decide on a trade or skilled work, they will have the foundation to be thinking, curious, well reasoned adults interested in a variety of subjects. It think we owe this to all our high school students (whether they think they “need†it or not). I am very uncomfortable with the idea of “tracking†high schoolers as if those who decide to go into a trade don’t need a rich, rigorous education. I feel we are already informally doing this with all of the focus on STEM! Skills! Technology! Rah rah.

 

 

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I think you are right that kids in a stream like trades should also have access to LA.

 

But my observation is that in countries which use that system, kids from other streams than academic do seem to have those opportunities, as well as actually getting a good technical education.  

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It is ironic that I just had a conversation with my DD who is currently job searching and soon graduating with a double major in physics and an interdisciplinary liberal arts major at a college that reserves one third of credits for a strong liberal arts core curriculum. She specifically chose this because she loves humanities and greatly enjoyed her coursework. But now in hindsight feels that this extra skill set does not give her any advantage and regrets that she didn't acquire a more practical second major. She says she wishes somebody had told her in her first year only to do this if she is interested in humanities grad school, and she feels it was a wasted effort.

 

So much for "high demand" for people with liberal arts education. And she has a freaking science major on top of it.

 

She might see the benefit of it more later on.  As far as actually getting a job, unfortunately it often isn't something where employers actually know enough to realize that it's useful. 

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Even way back when I graduated college as an undergrad liberal arts were not worth much in the job market which was why I focused on STEM and a social science and only minored in a liberal arts area. I thought of triple majoring and turning my minor into a 3rd bachelor's but it would have been more time with no real payout.

 

Hopefully as she grows and works she will see how much better her overall reasoning skills are. She will have a wider scope at which to look at those around her and the progression of mankind. Once she gets experience under her belt and has more employability footing she may realize just how valuable her decision was.

Well, and also, a BS in physics is not as much a terminal degree as, say, a BS in engineering.

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My goal is to give my kids the good well rounded liberal arts education so that they don’t have to worry so much about this question. Should they decide on a trade or skilled work, they will have the foundation to be thinking, curious, well reasoned adults interested in a variety of subjects. It think we owe this to all our high school students (whether they think they “need†it or not). I am very uncomfortable with the idea of “tracking†high schoolers as if those who decide to go into a trade don’t need a rich, rigorous education. I feel we are already informally doing this with all of the focus on STEM! Skills! Technology! Rah rah.

 

 

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Exactly! Ds is currently quite enthusiastic about a trade (pastry chef) but why on earth would we consider that the pastry chef doesn't need or DESIRE in on the broader conversation.

 

Luckily, at home, we can do that. Support the vocational interest AND provide access to a liberal arts education.

 

Where I am, though, this is not what happens with streaming.

 

What happens with streaming is that the 'lower' streams study a dumbed down curriculum. And make no mistake, interest in a trade gets you marked as 'lower'.

 

Absolutely, everyone needs access to the beauty, and truth we find in the liberal arts, not to mention the skills a liberal arts education promotes. Being on a vocational track does not equal dumb, or incapable.

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This conversation reminds me of "An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott.

In it one of the main families suffers a great reversal of fortune which necessitates the rather wayward son going into business without his father's capital behind him, an unexpected circumstance.  He talks ruefully of his classical education and how useless it is in 'the real world'.  

 

This was written in 1869.

 

There is nothing new under the sun.

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It is ironic that I just had a conversation with my DD who is currently job searching and soon graduating with a double major in physics and an interdisciplinary liberal arts major at a college that reserves one third of credits for a strong liberal arts core curriculum.

...

So much for "high demand" for people with liberal arts education. And she has a freaking science major on top of it.

Didn’t her college have job fairs last Fall/year end? My husband’s female colleague went to U of Chicago to try to recruit ladies. My husband did campus interviews in-state in October/November time frame annually for both internships and permanent positions for the graduating undergraduates and postgraduates. What his dept is looking out for are candidates with strong global communication skills and good people management skills in their past jobs/internships.

 

I find this part by US Bureau of Labor Statistics generally true.

 

“Beyond the major. Liberal arts graduates may have jobseeking challenges that those in specialized fields, such as registered nurses, do not. But positioning yourself for employment is important no matter what your major. “If you’re an accounting major and all you’ve done is go to class, you’re in trouble. If you’re a philosophy major and all you’ve done is go to class, you’re in trouble,†says Peltz. “You need to complement your academic work with multiple experiences outside the classroom.â€

 

A good way to gain workplace skills is through experiential learning. Some colleges and universities offer programs or encourage internships to help students get a glimpse of careers, gauge work preferences, and boost confidence. “You have to get out there and build those skills that may lead to a career,†says Timmins. “Sometimes, you may realize from an experience that it’s not what you want to do, and that’s fine. You’ve learned something really important.â€

 

With the right attitude and preparation, say experts, your liberal arts degree can take you in as many directions as your career goals allow. “When people ask, ‘What are you going to do with that liberal arts degree?’ the answer is: ‘Whatever I want,’†says Pasquerella. “It’s your capacity to see how the skills you acquired can be transferred that’s important.â€â€ https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/liberal-arts.htm

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Didn’t her college have job fairs last Fall/year end? My husband’s female colleague went to U of Chicago to try to recruit ladies. My husband did campus interviews in-state in October/November time frame annually for both internships and permanent positions for the graduating undergraduates and postgraduates. What his dept is looking out for are candidates with strong global communication skills and good people management skills in their past jobs/internships.

 

Yes, they had job fairs. And she went. To no avail. And the out-of-the-box interests probably had to do with it. because she wants to actually combine both sides of her skillset.

Edited by regentrude

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Well, and also, a BS in physics is not as much a terminal degree as, say, a BS in engineering.

Absolutely. Part of this too is that a bachelor's isn't special anymore. Once a high school diploma could get you a job because not everyone had them. Then when the expectation was that everyone would have one college was necessary above a diploma to typically achieve a descent job. Now we have essentially moved bachelor's into the second diploma place. This drives up the need now for graduate school and/or internships.

 

In those high demand jobs there is still employability at the level of a bachelor's. I wonder for how long though if everyone starts funneling into those careers.

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Isn't that how most colleges do it though?  They don't require specific core courses, but rather you choose from core areas.  It may end up that, for example, many engineering majors stick to the basics in other areas, but not so much that they are required to.

I tried to choose courses that weren't just level 100 intro courses because I found those courses to be insanely boring.  But some people would prefer to not have to take some courses at all so they opt for the intro courses. 

 

At my university, the core classes are divided by category English and Comm, Science, Social Science, Humanities, Physical Ed. You have a wide selection in each category, except everyone in our state has to take 1 American history course or an American government course. At least at my university, the core classes are helpful because many students are undecided and this exposes them to subjects they may not have studied before. 

 

They are switching over to different model shortly, not sure exactly how that will look. 

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Absolutely. Part of this too is that a bachelor's isn't special anymore. Once a high school diploma could get you a job because not everyone had them. Then when the expectation was that everyone would have one college was necessary above a diploma to typically achieve a descent job. Now we have essentially moved bachelor's into the second diploma place. This drives up the need now for graduate school and/or internships.

 

In those high demand jobs there is still employability at the level of a bachelor's. I wonder for how long though if everyone starts funneling into those careers.

Sure, but even in the 70s and 80s you were generally expected to have a graduate degree in physics, chemistry, or biology, although a BS in engineering was quite salable.

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I love the idea of giving all my children a great liberal arts education but there is that whole money thing. They are completely dependent on scholarships to get an education at all. If they mess up that's it. Their education days are over. Which means in state for a few of them which, having spoken with students and retired teachers, means not a great liberal arts education regardless what they major in. So I want them to have a great education but we will probably have to find another way to get it and focus on economic and career advantage for the paid classes. It's a matter of survival, unless someone wants to gift us with 40k a year for the next ten years. :)

 

I do think it's sad that we can't give our children a great liberal arts education in the secondary years. I certainly have failed my children in many ways in that regards but their education was so much better than mine it's crazy and the public school option wasn't better where I live. In fact our university does just rehash high school again the first few years because the majority of students come ill prepared for even the begining level of college work.

My dd is in nursing for reasons to do with wanting security in employment. There is no liberal arts component to her studies! There is a social sciences aspect, but other than that, it's pretty tightly focused.

 

Luckily, she got a pretty strong foundation in the liberal arts at home. If she'd been at school? No, not to the same extent.

 

It absolutely is sad that money is what will buy you access to a strong liberal arts education for 99% of kids.

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I don’t think every branch of a state university system needs to offer humanities degrees. But if they don’t, I think the state needs to offer a public LAC like William & Mary. It is more efficient to concentrate the humanities majors in one branch of the state university system than to have a handful of students in each major at each branch.

 

 

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. It is more efficient to concentrate the humanities majors in one branch of the state university system than to have a handful of students in each major at each branch.

 

It may be more efficient, but from an educational standpoint it is dreadful, because it relegates the humanities departments at the colleges that don't have majors to mere service departments with inferior course offerings for the students who wish to take humanities courses as electives. You end up with rudimentary departments that teach nothing but remedial composition and the required US history courses. It will be difficult to attract quality faculty. It is already a problem to have humanities departments without graduate programs because that drastically reduces the course offerings.

And engineer who wishes to take humanities electives should have the opportunity to do so. And you cannot have a vibrant department without a major. And you cannot have a vibrant university without a semblance of balance between the fields - you'd end up with a tech school that has a narrow focus. This may be efficient, but not good.

Edited by regentrude
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I don’t think every branch of a state university system needs to offer humanities degrees. But if they don’t, I think the state needs to offer a public LAC like William & Mary. It is more efficient to concentrate the humanities majors in one branch of the state university system than to have a handful of students in each major at each branch.

 

 

I don't actually think that this is very efficient.  And I also don't think it is desirable.

 

It's not efficient because it requires people who want a well rounded education to spread it out over two different universities, which is unlikely but also not inexpensive.  It also means that if you switch from a humanities field to a STEM one or vice versa you have to start over at a new college.

 

Additionally, as I said upthread, I'm very grateful to have been able to have outstanding professors in both my STEM and my humanities classes, and I want that for others.

 

We do have a local public college that is essentially a STEM school--UC Merced.  When we toured there, I was appalled and embarrassed at the lousy range of offerings in the English major.  (They did have an English major, but it was kind of a joke really.)  It's really too bad that it's like that, because it also has a lot to recommend it to a broad, diverse group of students--the best outdoor ed program I've seen anywhere (based in Yosemite; OMGosh); extraordinarily reasonable COL: brand new, growing campus with excellent tech and libraries; diverse and aspirational student body. 

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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It may be more efficient, but from an educational standpoint it is dreadful, because it relegates the humanities departments at the colleges that don't have majors to mere service departments with inferior course offerings for the students who wish to take humanities courses as electives. You end up with rudimentary departments that teach nothing but remedial composition and the required US history courses. It will be difficult to attract quality faculty. It is already a problem to have humanities departments without graduate programs because that drastically reduces the course offerings.

And engineer who wishes to take humanities electives should have the opportunity to do so. And you cannot have a vibrant department without a major. And you cannot have a vibrant university without a semblance of balance between the fields - you'd end up with a tech school that has a narrow focus. This may be efficient, but not good.

 

This is fine at private universities supported by donors, student tuition, and research grants. If private schools want to run a whole department for a handful of students majoring in a particular field despite the inefficiencies, so be it.

 

Public universities that are funded primarily by taxpayers need to be mindful about spending that money wisely. If there are a couple hundred students majoring in a particular humanities field in the state university system, it simply makes sense to concentrate them at a single branch rather than spreading them out over a dozen plus branches.

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It may be more efficient, but from an educational standpoint it is dreadful, because it relegates the humanities departments at the colleges that don't have majors to mere service departments with inferior course offerings for the students who wish to take humanities courses as electives. You end up with rudimentary departments that teach nothing but remedial composition and the required US history courses. It will be difficult to attract quality faculty. It is already a problem to have humanities departments without graduate programs because that drastically reduces the course offerings.

And engineer who wishes to take humanities electives should have the opportunity to do so. And you cannot have a vibrant department without a major. And you cannot have a vibrant university without a semblance of balance between the fields - you'd end up with a tech school that has a narrow focus. This may be efficient, but not good.

 

I think you could argue that those places aren't really looking at being universities any more, they are technical schools.  But, I guess the question is, is that a bad thing?

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Many think we're idiots but ds is going away this fall to college as an English major. It's what he loves and where he truly excels. He won't graduate with a lot of debt though as our good, state university has offered him enough merit aid to cover his tuition and half of his room & board. There is still one more scholarship he could get as well. He will definitely not have to take on any student debt his first two years and neither will we. Then, it just depends on what kind of scholarships dd will get as she will start college his third year. As of now, she will be majoring in art history. Again, many think we're crazy but if they can do it with little to no debt and it's what they love and will excel at, I don't see the issue. I'm glad our state universities haven't downsized these departments. Ours actually seem to be growing them and marketing them to possible future students. 

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Many think we're idiots but ds is going away this fall to college as an English major. It's what he loves and where he truly excels. He won't graduate with a lot of debt though as our good, state university has offered him enough merit aid to cover his tuition and half of his room & board. There is still one more scholarship he could get as well. He will definitely not have to take on any student debt his first two years and neither will we. Then, it just depends on what kind of scholarships dd will get as she will start college his third year. As of now, she will be majoring in art history. Again, many think we're crazy but if they can do it with little to no debt and it's what they love and will excel at, I don't see the issue. I'm glad our state universities haven't downsized these departments. Ours actually seem to be growing them and marketing them to possible future students.

I don’t think your child is an idiot. My daughter wants to major in linguistics so I am not anti-humanities. I just think it makes more sense for a state university system to have a dedicated liberal arts college like William and Mary rather than paying for small departments at each branch of the state university system.

 

The other branches would not be technical schools because there would still be all the large social science majors in addition to STEM and health ones. There are plenty of psychology, economics, etc. majors.

 

 

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I think you could argue that those places aren't really looking at being universities any more, they are technical schools.  But, I guess the question is, is that a bad thing?

 

Yes, I think it is.

I do not think it is good for engineering students to only be surrounded by other engineers. (Nor is it good for the faculty either.) Something goes missing, you develop tunnel vision, if you do not have a variety of fields to interact with and are not exposed to ideas from other disciplines. 

I teach at a very lopsided school that is extremely engineering focused, and it is not a good thing. I think diversity is extremely valuable. 

Many of our engineering students actually want to engage with the liberal arts. They want literature, music, and art in their lives. Telling them they should just stick to math, science and engineering shortchanges them.

And it has effects on the town and community as well. A vibrant university contributes much more to the community than a tech school.

Edited by regentrude
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The other branches would not be technical schools because there would still be all the large social science majors in addition to STEM and health ones. There are plenty of psychology, economics, etc. majors.

 

That is not necessarily true. You can make the same argument that all these other disciplines should be centralized.

Which make sense for the health field, because you cannot have a teaching hospital at every branch. But the others?

Why does your argument that we should centralize the humanities majors not also extend to the social sciences? 

 

 

This is fine at private universities supported by donors, student tuition, and research grants. If private schools want to run a whole department for a handful of students majoring in a particular field despite the inefficiencies, so be it.

 

Public universities that are funded primarily by taxpayers need to be mindful about spending that money wisely. If there are a couple hundred students majoring in a particular humanities field in the state university system, it simply makes sense to concentrate them at a single branch rather than spreading them out over a dozen plus branches.

 

Yes, public universities need to be mindful about spending, but they also have a mission educate.

 

From an efficiency standpoint, it would be most efficient if each campus only had related majors. From an efficiency standpoint, it is a waste of time to give engineering students the opportunity to read and discuss and write about literature and history.  It is most efficient if a few underpaid adjuncts teach them remedial composition. It is most efficient to have large classes, or even switch to online teaching altogether. Why not just let them watch MOOCs online?

 

But states who short change their public higher education shoot themselves in the foot in the long term.  

Edited by regentrude
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Yes, I think it is.

I do not think it is good for engineering students to only be surrounded by other engineers. (Nor is it good for the faculty either.) Something goes missing, you develop tunnel vision, if you do not have a variety of fields to interact with and are not exposed to ideas from other disciplines. 

I teach at a very lopsided school that is extremely engineering focused, and it is not a good thing. I think diversity is extremely valuable. 

Many of our engineering students actually want to engage with the liberal arts. They want literature, music, and art in their lives. Telling them they should just stick to math, science and engineering shortchanges them.

And it has effects on the town and community as well. A vibrant university contributes much more to the community than a tech school.

 

:iagree: Here's what would happen in my state. The main state university is smack dab in the middle of the state, efficient and close for most everyone, right? Not really.

1. I would not be a history major because the humanities would be at a university that I could not move to attend and could not afford because tuition is much higher. We have a lot of non-traditional students who are humanities majors. They can't move because of family issues, spouses with good-paying jobs, etc. 

 

2. The scandal that affected the school right before massive state budget cuts would cut into programs available - putting all your eggs in one basket risk.

 

3. The humanities professors instead of being spread throughout the state would be limited to one city. This would create a cultural and economic imbalance in the rest of our diverse state.

 

4. The nursing and business students who have to take ethics for their major would not learn from a philosopher, they would learn from another professor assigned the job because you're not going to hire a Phd Philosopher to teach one class.

 

5. The arts would suffer. Not only do we have a host of fine art majors, they serve as a community outreach for performances.

 

6. Student teaching and internships would be more cutthroat than now. Can you imagine every humanities major required to student teach fighting for spots in one city? Internships would be in a similar situation. History majors intern at a lot of different places in the state. If we only had one city to choose from, it would be horrid. While you could make an argument to move for student teaching, internships are generally done as a regular class in a semester, 1 -2 days a week. Those internships, etc, create real value for the students because many get jobs after graduation from those recommendations if not at the same business.

 

7. Half or more of the PhD's in our state would not have a job. Right now at my school the average class size for an upper level humanities class is about 15-20. From a practical standpoint, that wouldn't happen if all majors were at one university. I like our small class size, they're ideal for discussion and getting to know your professors. You would divorce the human from the humanities if that was not offered. 

 

8.  Students are a great source of manpower for a community. Seriously, our student body seems to have its hands in so many programs in the city, non-profits that rely on volunteers to run their organizations. This is another state-wide imbalance system.

 

9.  Sports would be affected. Athletes that want to major in humanities, we have those, would be relegated to one school, which is at a different level than some of the state universities. 

 

10. We're a regional university with cheap tuition. For many in our city, it's cheaper to attend here instead of going to the nearest community college. There are students here that otherwise would not be able to attend college. They may get some needs based aid, but not enough to afford room and board away from school. If they opted to come here, they would be relegated to majors that they may not want. This would make humanities educated class based, those that could afford to go away to school and those that couldn't. The Humanities already deal with enough class issues, no need to make a further distinction. 

 

Excuse any typos, I'm on my first cup of coffee. 

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I think you could argue that those places aren't really looking at being universities any more, they are technical schools.  But, I guess the question is, is that a bad thing?

I don't think it is a bad thing if the are technical schools--in fact, I think we need more technical schools.

 

I think it is a bad thing when we call a technical school a university and confuse the two  

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Yes, I think it is.

I do not think it is good for engineering students to only be surrounded by other engineers. (Nor is it good for the faculty either.) Something goes missing, you develop tunnel vision, if you do not have a variety of fields to interact with and are not exposed to ideas from other disciplines. 

I teach at a very lopsided school that is extremely engineering focused, and it is not a good thing. I think diversity is extremely valuable. 

Many of our engineering students actually want to engage with the liberal arts. They want literature, music, and art in their lives. Telling them they should just stick to math, science and engineering shortchanges them.

And it has effects on the town and community as well. A vibrant university contributes much more to the community than a tech school.

 

I think that would probably be my ideal, but I wonder about how best to achieve it.  I think professionals like engineers or doctors should be really educated in a more general way as well.  The old idea that everyone going into a profession have a few years LA, maybe at a different institution, makes a lot of sense to me.

 

What worries me, or what I find concerning, is that what I see in practice is that a lot of those kids don't seem to want that, and they resent having to take those classes.  A few people have mentioned that there should not be a lot of more broad courses apart from those actually related to the major that people should be required to take.   An many cases it seems like the courses, like English, directed towards those students end up being made rather shallow or utilitarian.  I wonder if the sense of these subjects being done in a way that serves the career oriented programs becomes a problem in terms of hw the government, or administration, or public, judge the LA subjects.

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I don't think it is a bad thing if the are technical schools--in fact, I think we need more technical schools.

 

I think it is a bad thing when we call a technical school a university and confuse the two  

 

Yes, this is kind of what I am thinking.

 

I actually feel like we are going the opposite way here.  I'm in a province with a lot of universities, and in my city there are several.  But even so, there is one large one which is a bit of a monster that keeps scooping up other institutions.  It has a law school, medical, dentistry, LA college, and some others.  But in the past 15 years it also took over the technical institute with engineering and architecture and related programs, and more recently the agricultural college that is located in a farm town about an hour away.  Now both are called "universities."

 

The university as a whole does have all the regular departments like history, English, etc.  But so much of it now is one sort of technical or professional training, which IMO isn't properly university training at all.

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? Do most start in areas assuming they will go to graduate school and then get burned out? Do most assume they will be able to find employment because they have a college degree, regardless of discipline? I'm all for education for the sake of education, but I'm also pragmatic.

 

Beyond the degree decision, there is much to be said for knowing how to network for employment. "Soft skills" matter in employability. We have friends whose daughter graduated from my alma mater (one of the "Colleges That Change Lives") a few years ago with a double major in Art and Spanish. She works in HR. But, she's super outgoing, assertive, confident, etc. I have no doubt she interviews well as she is poised, polished, and personable. She definitely knew how to "sell" herself and networked like crazy to get her foot in the door. Once in, she excelled.

 

I had no idea what I wanted to major in and wasn't too concerned because I planned to go to law school. My mother (wisely) directed me toward something highly employable prognosticating that I would want a break from school after four years of college. She was right. I did return and go to law school but not until I had worked five years in my field.

 

I was fortunate that I attended an LAC that offered a speciality in accounting under its Economics degree. I feel as though I had the best of both worlds.

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? Do most start in areas assuming they will go to graduate school and then get burned out? Do most assume they will be able to find employment because they have a college degree, regardless of discipline? I'm all for education for the sake of education, but I'm also pragmatic.

 

Beyond the degree decision, there is much to be said for knowing how to network for employment. "Soft skills" matter in employability. We have friends whose daughter graduated from my alma mater (one of the "Colleges That Change Lives") a few years ago with a double major in Art and Spanish. She works in HR. But, she's super outgoing, assertive, confident, etc. I have no doubt she interviews well as she is poised, polished, and personable. She definitely knew how to "sell" herself and networked like crazy to get her foot in the door. Once in, she excelled.

 

I had no idea what I wanted to major in and wasn't too concerned because I planned to go to law school. My mother (wisely) directed me toward something highly employable prognosticating that I would want a break from school after four years of college. She was right. I did return and go to law school but not until I had worked five years in my field.

 

I was fortunate that I attended an LAC that offered a speciality in accounting under its Economics degree. I feel as though I had the best of both worlds.

 

I think many get jobs or are interested in careers where there isn't one type of training that leads directly into that area.

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? 

 

I was barely thinking that far ahead, but mostly assumed I'd go into teaching.

 

I was thinking I'd had a lousy education and didn't really know anything, and a humanities degree seemed an achievable place to start because I knew enough to be sure I'd pass and didn't have the confidence I could pass anything else. Humanities also seemed the right place to go when what I was really looking for was education in person-ness.

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Many think we're idiots but ds is going away this fall to college as an English major. It's what he loves and where he truly excels. He won't graduate with a lot of debt though as our good, state university has offered him enough merit aid to cover his tuition and half of his room & board. There is still one more scholarship he could get as well. He will definitely not have to take on any student debt his first two years and neither will we. Then, it just depends on what kind of scholarships dd will get as she will start college his third year. As of now, she will be majoring in art history. Again, many think we're crazy but if they can do it with little to no debt and it's what they love and will excel at, I don't see the issue. I'm glad our state universities haven't downsized these departments. Ours actually seem to be growing them and marketing them to possible future students.

You're not an idiot; it's just not something working class kids can afford to do.

 

One of mine is an excellent writer, with real potential. Her dad and I both know that as a working class kid, that's the last avenue she should follow. So we strongly encouraged her to study in a different field, even though we are both writers ourselves.

 

It's not to do with the loans (well, yeah, it is that too) but working class kids can't do the unpaid internships, and the - to be frank - schmoozing - that a career in arts involves.

 

However, it has always been thus. Nothing new for working class kids to play it safe.

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I was barely thinking that far ahead, but mostly assumed I'd go into teaching.

 

I was thinking I'd had a lousy education and didn't really know anything, and a humanities degree seemed an achievable place to start because I knew enough to be sure I'd pass and didn't have the confidence I could pass anything else. Humanities also seemed the right place to go when what I was really looking for was education in person-ness.

That's a better justification than mine. I thought I'd just keep writing and publishing, and get married to someone with $.

 

In other words, I was a flipping idiot.

 

With really nice parents who wanted to be supportive, and who didn't sit me down and say 'a path to a stable income is really, really important. Take the creative writing, but decide on what else you can study alongside in order to make a living.'

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? Do most start in areas assuming they will go to graduate school and then get burned out? Do most assume they will be able to find employment because they have a college degree, regardless of discipline? I'm all for education for the sake of education, but I'm also pragmatic.

 

Beyond the degree decision, there is much to be said for knowing how to network for employment. "Soft skills" matter in employability. We have friends whose daughter graduated from my alma mater (one of the "Colleges That Change Lives") a few years ago with a double major in Art and Spanish. She works in HR. But, she's super outgoing, assertive, confident, etc. I have no doubt she interviews well as she is poised, polished, and personable. She definitely knew how to "sell" herself and networked like crazy to get her foot in the door. Once in, she excelled.

 

I had no idea what I wanted to major in and wasn't too concerned because I planned to go to law school. My mother (wisely) directed me toward something highly employable prognosticating that I would want a break from school after four years of college. She was right. I did return and go to law school but not until I had worked five years in my field.

 

I was fortunate that I attended an LAC that offered a speciality in accounting under its Economics degree. I feel as though I had the best of both worlds.

That student is wildly optimistic about the career prospects for a poet who also wants kids ?!

 

It's because we hear so much about persuing passions, I think. It's unsexy to hear that you should persue financial stability.

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It's because we hear so much about persuing passions, I think. It's unsexy to hear that you should persue financial stability.

Well, I'm pretty passionate about my classical guitar playing. But, I saw how my guitar teacher lived, and it wasn't appealing to me. So, I am a slightly-above average player who is strictly a hobbyist,

 

I think concern about what is sexy or not is...misplaced. Being financially stable is pretty empowering.

Edited by Hoggirl
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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? Do most start in areas assuming they will go to graduate school and then get burned out? Do most assume they will be able to find employment because they have a college degree, regardless of discipline? I'm all for education for the sake of education, but I'm also pragmatic.

 

Yes, most people who major in a not-immediately-practical field assume either graduate school (which in my social circle most people do complete) or getting a job that just requires a bachelor's in any field.

 

My DD who wants to major in linguistics wants to be a forensic linguist (working for the FBI or other law enforcement agency to analyze language samples in the hopes of solving crimes). Previously she had expressed an interest in speech & language pathology. My sister-in-law was a linguistics major and is now an attorney. One of my sorority sisters studied linguistics and now is a computer programmer. My aunt is an ESL teacher and while she was an elementary education major many people with degrees in linguistics do wind up as ESL teachers. 

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation? Do most start in areas assuming they will go to graduate school and then get burned out? Do most assume they will be able to find employment because they have a college degree, regardless of discipline? I'm all for education for the sake of education, but I'm also pragmatic.

 

Beyond the degree decision, there is much to be said for knowing how to network for employment. "Soft skills" matter in employability. We have friends whose daughter graduated from my alma mater (one of the "Colleges That Change Lives") a few years ago with a double major in Art and Spanish. She works in HR. But, she's super outgoing, assertive, confident, etc. I have no doubt she interviews well as she is poised, polished, and personable. She definitely knew how to "sell" herself and networked like crazy to get her foot in the door. Once in, she excelled.

 

 

 

The students that I've seen transition easily into the workplace, outside of those that go on to grad school, are those that networked and planned well before graduation, probably no later than fall of their junior year. The ones that just assume they will fall into a job just because of the degree are the ones that are working "jobs" vs. having a career. 

 

Our school is big on applied learning, which really just means things that look good on resumes. I live in a town of about 75k, not quite small town, but still connected enough that it is many times who you know not just your skills when getting a job in your field. I was hired in a part-time position at the museum where I intern without an interview because they knew my skills. 

 

Internships, not summer one, but ones that are treated like a class during the semester where you get credit and meet with an instructor every once in a while, are also big at my school. Advising also makes a difference, our professors, at least in my department, are very upfront with students and willing to help them build skills or seek opportunities, but the students have to be proactive themselves. 

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Well, I'm pretty passionate about my classical guitar playing. But, I saw how my guitar teacher lived, and it wasn't appealing to me. So, I am a slightly-above average player who is strictly a hobbyist,

 

I think concern about what is sexy or not is...misplaced. Being finically stable is pretty empowering.

Yeah, well, I know that now! Some of us had to learn the hard way :)

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I haven't read all of the thread, having exhausted myself in this discussion many years ago.  I do have some new personal data points, however.  

 

I have personal friends who have graduated from what are truly the last vestiges of pure liberal-arts colleges.  No technical training--great books, or great ideas or whatever, but not as a backdrop to a skill, trade, or body of knowledge that has a distinct career path.

 

Every last one of them has had to go back to school to get a job.  Two went back to engineering school.  Three went back/are going back for a teaching degree.  One is going back for a nursing degree.  

 

I have two other young friends who are totally in love with Philosophy . So they are double majoring--Philosophy and Computer Science.  A friend of theirs did the same thing two years before they did so and landed a job right out of college at $120K a year.

 

I love spending time with all of these people.  They are about the last people on the planet who can stay in a room full of people who have different political views and have an argument without its devolving into a quarrel.  One of them has been invited to present papers at a philosophers' consortium.  They are well read, they value Truth and Goodness...and they all did their time at Starbucks before someone took them by the scruff of the neck and said, "You have to do more than this with your life."  So they all have gone/are going back to school.  

 

So I say Hip Hip Hooray for liberal arts education!  Big time.  But plan on 6 years of school and spend two of them learning something that can get you employed.  

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I have an honest, non-snarky question - when a student decides to pursue an undergraduate course of study in an area (any area) that typically does not have a direct path to employment, what does s/he expect to happen after graduation?

For my age peer friends that choose to get a Bachelors of Arts:

one wanted to be a journalist and is still a traveling journalist two decades later,

 

three wanted to be teachers and were going to do postgrad in education after their bachelors, and they are currently still teaching,

 

one wanted to be a social worker and she is working as a social worker,

 

two wanted to be a college lecturers and that is what they are doing. They both happened to have affluent parents.

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I got a bachelor or arts but I would not in my wildest overstatement call what I got a “liberal arts†education.

 

I’m mentioning it because I think a BA is not indicative of a liberal arts education; it hasn’t been for a long time.

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So I say Hip Hip Hooray for liberal arts education!  Big time.  But plan on 6 years of school and spend two of them learning something that can get you employed.  

 

Or plan carefully and double major.

 

Most universities require students to take general education requirements and usually offer a variety of courses that fulfill those options. Some are guts to pad your gpa and get you through if you could care less, some are well thought out surveys that will require more work but will leave you with a decent basic knowledge base to know what you want to explore more and be able to do it. Some schools have more of a focus on turning out well rounded students than others but if you read through all the offerings and do a little digging there are options at most big schools. Many offer great books minors or small seminar classes that fulfill the humanities and social science requirements in a more meaningful way. Just off the top of my head I can name several programs at local universities that would give a career oriented student a solid introduction to the liberal arts without adding years to their degree.

 

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You're not an idiot; it's just not something working class kids can afford to do.

 

One of mine is an excellent writer, with real potential. Her dad and I both know that as a working class kid, that's the last avenue she should follow. So we strongly encouraged her to study in a different field, even though we are both writers ourselves.

 

It's not to do with the loans (well, yeah, it is that too) but working class kids can't do the unpaid internships, and the - to be frank - schmoozing - that a career in arts involves.

 

However, it has always been thus. Nothing new for working class kids to play it safe.

My daughter worked a paid full time job in the evening while she worked an unpaid summer internship. She also worked a part time work study job while working on an unpaid internship during her junior year. All of which led to paid internships the summer of her junior/senior year and a paid internship during her senior year. With her work experience she has strong job possibilities. She's an art/english major at a flag ship state university known for liberal arts. It can be done. It's just a lot of work.

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With really nice parents who wanted to be supportive, and who didn't sit me down and say 'a path to a stable income is really, really important. Take the creative writing, but decide on what else you can study alongside in order to make a living.'

 

See, I feel like a complete jerk for gently reminding my artistic/writer DD(#2 - for those of you playing at home) that while I think she's talented & wonderful, she needs to get a degree in something that will pay the bills. Then, she can draw/paint & work on her children's books in her spare time. Because who wants your loving mom to tell you that you might not strike the big time right away or at least achieve enough success that you can write & create art full time without having a different day job? I feel like a dream-snuffer sometimes.

 

I continue to be very conflicted about the topic of a true liberal arts education (for all college-goers). I'm generally against a one-size-fits-most policy, but I met an engineer the other day who apparently didn't know much about World Wars 1 & 2. I was shocked  :ohmy:, but hid it because I thought maybe he was pulling my leg. I'm pretty sure he didn't have a clue.  :scared: It makes me more conflicted. Because, seriously, I'm no history buff (although SWB has sure helped out my interest & knowledge in the past 11 years). 

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With really nice parents who wanted to be supportive, and who didn't sit me down and say 'a path to a stable income is really, really important. Take the creative writing, but decide on what else you can study alongside in order to make a living.'

 

OR, do something that enables you to know that you can make a living.

 

When DD came home for the summer after her freshman year of college (Major:  The Creative Writing of Poetry.  Is there any less practical major in the universe?), we said, OK, you can work on family stuff (the yard, the house, etc.) for 5 hours per day, or go to the local community college to pick up some general ed units, or get a job.  And, we taught her how to get a job...how to apply, how to interview, etc.  I thought she would end up working at a smoothie shop, but actually she got a commission only job selling personal computers and although she hated it, she ended up being really good at it.

 

By the next summer she was lecturing me with the same stuff I had told her, about how you have to apply for MANY jobs to get one, and you have to apply in parallel.  It was really pretty funny.

 

But now, for good and all, she knows how to get and keep a job that will earn a living.  

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See, I feel like a complete jerk for gently reminding my artistic/writer DD(#2 - for those of you playing at home) that while I think she's talented & wonderful, she needs to get a degree in something that will pay the bills. Then, she can draw/paint & work on her children's books in her spare time. Because who wants your loving mom to tell you that you might not strike the big time right away or at least achieve enough success that you can write & create art full time without having a different day job? I feel like a dream-snuffer sometimes.

).

I know several English majors and a couple of art majors who make a good living in jobs related to their degree. Now they are not creative writers or book illustrators. Their jobs

-technical editor

-speechwriter for an Army base commander (the generals come and go but she stays)

-public relations executive

-head of marketing for a textbook publisher (art major)

-user experience designer (art major undergrad, did a master’s in human-computer interaction)

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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There are 4 people in my parish (not that big a parish) who make their living as artists

1 teaches high school

2 do art for video games

1 does art for greeting cards

 

It can be done.  But I think the two video-game artists went to what is really a technical school, not through a liberal arts kind of program.  I don't think they could cough up much info about Western Civilization or Shakespeare.

 

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See, I feel like a complete jerk for gently reminding my artistic/writer DD(#2 - for those of you playing at home) that while I think she's talented & wonderful, she needs to get a degree in something that will pay the bills. Then, she can draw/paint & work on her children's books in her spare time. Because who wants your loving mom to tell you that you might not strike the big time right away or at least achieve enough success that you can write & create art full time without having a different day job? I feel like a dream-snuffer sometimes.

I would I call this self-preservation. Financial independence for my child has always been a goal.

 

Ds considered being a music major. He was definitely good "enough." I pointed out that the lifestyles of musicians are tough. Most wind up piecing together their incomes - which is fine. But there are many odd hours and a lack of a normal schedule if one is combining teaching students after school hours, gigging at weddings and bars, working for a church, accompanying people, etc. I know plenty of musicians who do fine, but it isn't easy.

Edited by Hoggirl
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I think we require too many humanities credits and this makes a good education less accessible to many people.

 

I believe we could easily cut most college courses to 3 years or less (as they are in most of the world) and still be just as smart.

 

If there is anything "left out" of such whittled-down education, I'm sure it can be more than made up by independent study on the internet / in books.

 

(I took a lot of humanities courses, and my undergrad degree didn't really prepare me for anything substantive.  It got me into grad school, that's all.)

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I would I call this self-preservation. Financial independence for my child has always been a goal.

 

Ds considered being a music major. He was definitely good "enough." I pointed out that the lifestyles of musicians are tough. Most wind up piecing together their incomes - which is fine. But there are many odd hours and a lack of normal schedule is one is combining teaching students after school,hours, gigging at weddings and bars, working for a church, accompanying people, etc. I know plenty of musicians who do fine, but it isn't easy.

 

My brother went to a music college and studied digital music production. He made a good living as an audio engineer but in his mid-30's he got tired of all the uncertainty. Studio jobs are EXTREMELY competitive so he would work for touring bands/musicians. He would constantly have to hustle for the next tour and not infrequently a tour would get cut short and what he thought would be a 6 month gig might only be 2-3 months.

 

Eventually he decided to do one of those IT "boot camps" and now he has a stable job working for a company that's like Geek Squad but for small businesses that don't have the need for a FT IT support person. He doesn't find IT as interesting as audio engineering but he is able to go home to his fiancee every night and he knows where his next paycheck will be coming from.

 

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I believe we could easily cut most college courses to 3 years or less (as they are in most of the world) and still be just as smart.

If there is anything "left out" of such whittled-down education, I'm sure it can be more than made up by independent study on the internet / in books.

 

That is not possible in highly sequenced subjects where one course is the prerequisite for another and you cannot simply stick major courses into slots freed up by cutting gen eds. 

 

Most students cannot make up complex upper level material through self study.

 

 

 

 

Edited by regentrude
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The thing about the arts is, mostly, you know how when you are youngish a lot of folks kind of piece together their incomes and have roommates and economize to get by while they are putting together their lives?  Well, in the arts that's more often the lifelong lifestyle.

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