Higher Education Downsizing and ‘Real’ Majors

There’s an entire outrage industry built on attacking various university departments that don’t teach ‘anything useful.’ Various state governors have jumped on board, and attempt to defund departments, the ones that they find politically incorrect. That’s how the discourse is framed, anyway (boldface mine):

“In the 1960s, students rebelled at most institutions,” fellow right-winger Robert C. Dickeson wrote in General Education: Too Many Options, “and institutions subsequently caved…. We need a more academically responsible general education program to keep both our students and our institutions centered on what is important.”

What might that be? you ask.

ALEC — a conservative group that writes model legislation and policy briefs for lawmakers — posits that, “American businesses are increasingly worried about the quality of the workforce pool from which they will be hiring.… Too few American students are graduating high school or college with the skills employers need.” The solution? Let business “shape or endorse curriculum, training and certification options that teach the skills they look for in potential employees.”

The reality is somewhat different:

And Canisius and Elmira are not anomalous. A host of other small, private colleges — Hiram, Illinois Wesleyan, Kettering, Keuka, Marian, Medaille, National and Wittenberg, among them — have also eliminated “underperforming departments.” The most frequently nixed specializations are math, biology, philosophy, geology, physics, religion, anthropology, chemistry and foreign languages.

Maybe it says something about American bidness that math, biology, geology, physics, chemistry, and foreign language proficiency are not considered important for business. Mind you, the other subjects are important, but I fail to understand how the subjects I listed aren’t useful for business. What is apparently important?

One manifestation of that opportunity, he continues, is Elmira College’s rollout of new programs in actuarial science, health care management and fashion marketing.

This will not end well. And remember: anytime conservatives start prattling on about values, make sure your wallet is still there. Because that’s what it’s really about.

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6 Responses to Higher Education Downsizing and ‘Real’ Majors

  1. Mark Dempsey says:

    In the clusterf*ck that is American education, the bizarre truth is that privatizing (union-busting charter schools), monetizing (bonuses for good teachers) and looking for “value added” (testing to see who is the good teacher) are all things that make perfect sense to an MBA.

    Actual science does not validate any of those tactics as producing better educational outcomes. Yet our plutocrats persist, even funding propaganda films like “Waiting for Superman” that tout such strategies as effective. The film points to the Finnish schools as a model to emulate.

    And Finnish schools are very good indeed. Oddly enough WFS omits mention that the Finnish teachers are tenured, well-paid and unionized.

    What does actually correlate with better educational outcomes? Answer: Childhood poverty. In Finland 2% of children are poor. In the U.S. it’s 23%.

    One other bizarre corollary is that Federal funding for higher education has declined 55% since 1972. State funding has declined even more dramatically. This leads to high tuition and student debt. It also means professors thinking of flunking students have to think twice because having fewer students, even if they’re unqualified, means their funding is in jeopardy.

    To top it off, the founders of our MBA programs, like Frederick Winslow Taylor, were con men. Taylor himself admitted he altered his “experimental” results as much as 220% so they would fit his theories.

    I could not make this stuff up.

  2. John Kane says:

    Elmira College’s rollout of new programs in actuarial science, health care management and fashion marketing.

    I wonder if my alma mater, not in the USA, held a small celebration?

  3. js says:

    Maybe this is what it is to live in an un-developing country. They not only don’t want us to challenge their social and economic systems: no anthropology of philosophy for you! They don’t even need or want us to do *high skilled labor* in this country anymore. But credentialism itself is kept alive, they will still require you to have a BA to be a barista.

  4. I think it really says something when a Catholic College (Canisius) gets rid of RELIGIOUS STUDIES.

  5. David Taylor says:

    I wonder if part of the issue is that business and industry have largely abandoned their former practice of training new employees, and instead are increasingly relying on colleges to provide that training. Several decades ago there was an interesting book published about Stanford’s business school, which argued essentially that the MBA degree was, if not completely worthless, at least marginal in relevance, since employers provided new hires with the education and training they needed to do the job — the MBA simply offered evidence that the new employee could learn. Now, a new employee is expected to hit the ground running, eliminating the cost of that older learning/training/apprenticeship period.

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