31 March 2009

Future Madoffs of America

Chris Hedges is sometimes hit or miss, but he's been on a tear lately. I was particularly interested in this statistic.
Only 8 percent of U.S. college graduates now receive degrees in the humanities, about 110,000 students. Between 1970 and 2001, bachelor’s degrees in English declined from 7.6 percent to 4 percent, as did degrees in foreign languages (2.4 percent to 1 percent), mathematics (3 percent to 1 percent), social science and history (18.4 percent to 10 percent). Bachelor’s degrees in business, which promise the accumulation of wealth, have skyrocketed. Business majors since 1970-1971 have risen from 13.6 percent of the graduation population to 21.7 percent. Business has now replaced education, which has fallen from 21 percent to 8.2 percent, as the most popular major.
We had a couple of elementary school kids in the museum today, and it got me thinking about something. Kids around here, and I suspect in many places in the country, generally get a lot of pressure from the surrounding culture not to be interested in anything deemed too intellectual, exploratory, or otherwise "learning for learning's sake." Paradoxically, though, they're expected to be the pride of their family, going off to university and graduate school and bringing down the big sheepskin. I joked with someone later that when these kids become adults we'll be calling them "business majors." I was half-kidding, but Hedges column has given me some confidence that I might be on to something.