The "Liberal Arts Bubble"

Discussion in 'Odds & Ends' started by OTMPut, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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  2. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    The actual thesis of the article is that Americans are being under-educated across the board.

    It also makes the unsubstantiated thesis that American education is world standard when only a fragment of it is such.

    It also forgets that America has de-industrialised and so the lure of STEM is greater for Chinese students than Americans.

    The separation of college from professional courses that occurs in America must also favour liberal arts, as in a lot of the world you can start doing a professional course in year one.
     
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  3. mhstennis100

    mhstennis100 Semi-Pro

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    Accounting undergrad here, plan on following up with a masters in MIS (management information systems) or finance. We have a 5 year track that grants the bachelors of accounting and a masters in another field of business.

    It always surprises me when people major in those liberal arts fields, such as history or philosophy, and expect a job that pays well. Companies don't hire philosophers to sit around and think. They don't hire historians to talk about the history of America. They want people who can add value to their company. Obviously you can get one of those degrees and do something unrelated to your major (uncle got a history degree, and now he's a marketing exec), but I would guess that's more of the exception.
     
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  4. OTMPut

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    I think the "world standard" assertion is more from the sales numbers (number of international students flocking to get educated in the US of A).


    The majority of highest paying (higher up the value chain, so they need higher degrees e.g. design & R&D) of the STEM jobs still sit in America and not in China or India.

    In India and China there is not much of a social security program. For hundreds of millions of people STEM education is the only relatively high return on investment bet.

    Do americans end up at MIT graduate engineering programs after a liberal art college education?
     
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  5. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    Foreign students flock everywhere in the West because they not only buy an education, but also citizenship after graduation.

    Although there is no social security in China, their students are usually quite well off but, yes, they want to be even better off.

    In some parts of the West, middle class children undoubtedly want an interesting job but this does not usually mean liberal arts.

    Rather they seem to split between doing business studies/finance/law and creative arts/it studies.

    Science and mathematics are a bit like foreign languages in that if you don't get a consistently good and interesting education in them Western children lose interest.

    Eastern education is a bit more old school in its approach to pedagogy and you're meant to persevere.
     
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  6. spaceman_spiff

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    The important thing that this article does not mention is the fact that most people, even most college students, don't have the ability to complete many of these technical degrees, especially ones like astrophysic and various engineering fields (mechanical, chemical, etc.).

    I've seen some complex math and science in my life, and I know for a fact that a majority of people do not have the ability to comprehend most of it. Think about the people you've known who struggled with math and science back in highschool. Then, imagine them trying to do another four years of math and science classes that progressively get more and more complex.

    The whole reason people with those degrees have high salaries and low unemployement rates is because they are amongst the very few people in the world capable of getting one of those degrees in the first place. Saying everyone should go for degrees in astrophysics and chemical engineering because of their high salaries is like saying everyone should aspire to be professional baseball or basketball players. It's a lot easier said than done.

    That said, I think a lot can be done to improve our primary and secondary education. I think one reason there are so many college dropouts is because too many people make it through highschool without learning the things they need to know to progress further in college. They arrive on campus, only to find out that don't have the skills they need.
     
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  7. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    There are many sides to the story.

    High school dropout rates are much higher in many other countries due to poverty. But if those countries have a larger population, the numbers who graduate looks better.

    In many countries, only the middle class and lower middle class whose parents were unemployed or underemployed or were salaried working stiffs get into science and engineering. Those who are independently wealthy do not. Since the US was a wealthier country a short while ago, people were not forced to go into STEM careers. In poor countries, it is the only way out.

    In poorer countries, higher degrees often lead to the same store clerk jobs that US citizens do with a high school diploma.

    You don't graduate high school with only a knowledge of arithmetic. You need to have studied geometry and algebra too. And high school is not expected to prepare you with marketable skills - it is just a constitutionally mandated education.

    But certainly the high school dropout rate in the US should be improved on - for the sake of an educated population which is the foundation of democracy. Otherwise they will be just fodder for politicians.
     
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  8. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    The thing that surprizes me is the number of highschool graduates, even those with reasonably good grades, who haven't actually learned much of anything. Somehow, they passed all the tests to get a diploma without retaining any knowledge and without any ability to communicate effectively.

    Even in college, I was shocked at the low level of the material in the basic freshman classes like English comp; we're talking about stuff that I learned in middle school (and I went to public schools in one of the poorest states in the country). Yet, that's where they had to start freshman off at, presumably because large numbers of them didn't have any knowledge beyond that level. Of course, there was a steep curve from there, and that's when people started dropping out.

    If even the above-average highschool grads (those accepted to college) struggle with middle-school-level material, what does that say about primary and secondary education in the US?
     
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  9. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Despite all this pessimism among the older generation, statistics show that the number of hours spent in school has increased over the decades. College admissions are harder than ever, and take into account tests like SAT 2s and APs which did not exist before. It is a myth that earlier generations were better educated, and exists in all countries. Truth is, in those times, many demographic groups were denied/discouraged from getting an education, and everything was skewed to a privileged few. People produce a history examination from 1872 and point out how advanced it was. In 1872, many women and other groups were dropping out like crazy. The number of subjects and the tests to be taken were few. These comparisons are not valid.
     
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  10. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Even in poor states, there are good neighborhoods and good schools.

    What you noticed is perhaps the social reality from which you were shielded in school. Colleges have policies like admitting some students from every school regardless of scores in order to protect against income disparities. In reality, these people always exist - it is how much you want not to see them is the issue. That is why I am never impressed by a French science olympics championship team with 1 girl and zero Algerian refugees or a high performing team from Japan carefully assembled from the best schools in the country. It means nothing to me.
     
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  11. Pacific lefty

    Pacific lefty Rookie

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    French Literature!

    I guess I am definitely a victim of the liberal arts bubble. I received an M.A. in French lit from UCSB in California and that qualifies me for either teaching or call centre type jobs (I live in Ireland...), neither of which I would like to pursue. I actually have worked in both sectors, and not crazy about either. My husband, Irish, studied business and successfully runs his own company...

    In terms of looking at our education system and saying "the grass is always greener...", I have to say I have lived in Spain, France, and now Ireland, and still in my opinion, the U.S. is the only place that if you want to succeed no matter what, you can with hard work if you put in the hours. I have lots of European friends who are stuck in jobs they hate, with no possibility of changing careers. You just don't really do that here.

    Ireland sells its image of "saints and scholars" but realistically there is an illiteracy rate of approx 25% which is very high. The educated middle classes here go to college and get the best jobs, but the underprivileged classes have very little mobility.
     
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  12. volleygirl

    volleygirl Semi-Pro

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    A high school diploma doesnt mean anything anymore except that the kid attended school for 12 years.
     
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  13. sureshs

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    Reality is that the large number of STEM graduates from other countries, which has worried both Bush and Obama, is because they get employment which is largely a function of the global economy (in the future, it will be largely domestic I agree). It is consumer spending by people in the West and also by the richer people in their own country that keeps these people employed. Given a chance, they would all quit and get 9-5 jobs or do something they want. From my own experience, most want to quit engineering after 5 years of work but some just continue for the money, while others move into management and absolutely will not touch any hands-on work - which is reserved for the next generation of suckers.

    As regards the products made by the STEM graduates, there would be very few if there was no content. Who makes the movies, the music, the art, the games, the sports which create the need for computers and bandwidth? Would you pay money to watch someone write a program? No. You would watch Nadal though.

    Most of these STEM guys realize sooner or later that they are just glorified workers who make money for other people to enjoy life with. It was the same when the Taj Mahal or the pyramids were built - no one knows the names of the guys who engineered it, only the kings and pharaohs are remembered.
     
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  14. sureshs

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    No, in CA it also means you passed the exit exam and satisfied a whole bunch of requirements for English, Foreign language, Science, History and so forth.
     
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  15. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

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    Most student dream of having a high paying job without knowing what it takes to get there and what those jobs are about. High paying jobs equal high productivity. High productivity requires a great deal of knowledge, skills, hard work, and mental stress.
    Students in engineering, computer science, pre-med…have their first class at 8 am finish by 5 pm and stay up till 1 am on most days to catch up with reading and assignments. On the other hand, liberal art students start their day at 11 am and finish by 3 pm. I maybe am exaggerating but just want to make a point. Different lifestyles, different skill sets, different career paths for different people.
    With the rising cost of our educational system, students can no longer afford to treat post secondary education as a learning experience. It’s a serious investment, so they better make sure they get the best returns possible. As for their own interests, learning is a life-long commitment; they can always do that later in life.
     
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  16. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    But it is precisely the 11 am waking up guys who explore new activities, new lifestyles, take risks and create the jobs for the guys who wake up at 8 am. Think about it - if there was no National Geographic explorer hanging upside down from a tree photographing the mating habits of kangaroos, there would be no Nikon engineers building cameras for him.
     
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  17. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

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    There are far fewer guys that want to get up at 7 am than the other guys. Hence they are in higher demand which leads to top dollars.
    It’s always the guys who ‘produce’ have a higher earning potential. It used to be the farmers, then the industrial workers.
     
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  18. goober

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    That may be true, but a lot of these guys are also just lazy bums not creative geniuses. If they were up all night working on some project or idea- yeah sure. But if they were up all night partying or playing xbox- not so much.
     
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  19. LuckyR

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    Unless someone can show (which the article certainly did not) that there are slots in the science majors that are going unfilled, then this article, poof, disappears into much noise about... nothing.
     
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  20. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    That makes no sense. People go into liberal arts majors for various reasons. It would not be because all the science 'slots' are filled for goodness sakes! Universities are businesses and they study trends among high school students. If more kids wanted to be science majors they would simply increase those departments to meet demand. Or kids would go elsewhere.

    "Dad, all the biochemistry major slots were filled....so I decided to take art history instead". Really?
     
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  21. LuckyR

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    Well if all of the available science slots are filled, what is your recipe for creating more scientists? And BTW if they are filled that means they are turning away competent applicants so there is a lot more to it than "increasing departments to meet demand".
     
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  22. shaysrebelII

    shaysrebelII Semi-Pro

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    Excellent post. I'm a current undergrad majoring in history and political science at a major public university. I can't see how this bubble applies to me. I know me, and I know there's no way I could do what it takes to go into an engineering field.

    Undoubtedly those who make it through these incredibly rigorous will earn more than will. To be honest, they *should* make more than me; it takes a special bundle of intellect to do the things they do. Maybe I am just part of a bubble that's gonna burst; but when the alternative is majoring in a field that I'm ill-equipped for, I don't think I have much choice.
     
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  23. goober

    goober Legend

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    I think a better alternative for many students - not necessarily you, is to get vocational training in a specific field. This occurs in many other countries and probably prepares you better for the workforce than a liberal arts degree. Unfortunately there is some stigma attached to these types of training programs compared to college degrees.
     
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  24. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Don't be so rough on yourself. The piece that the original article missed entirely is that all of these scientists work for companies run by people without scientific degrees who make way, way more than they do.
     
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  25. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    "The unexamined life is not worth living"

    The only thing that is "good for its own sake" is happiness. And happiness may or may not be what awaits all of you successful "tech" graduates.

    Any fool can make money, and many fools do.
     
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  26. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    there are beautiful discoveries like central limit theorem or constructions like abelian groups or brownian motion or fantasy lands like cantor's cardinal numbers that are comparable in beauty to any artform ever created by anyone.

    dont ever think art and happiness is the sole preserve of hippies (and math challenged bozos).
     
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  27. Agent Orynge

    Agent Orynge Professional

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    I think capitalization is beautiful (for those English challenged bozos).
     
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  28. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    modern smarphone discourse is an artform in itself. it shuns capitalizations punctuations and is an epitome of minimalism in language.
     
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  29. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    These authors have a rather crooked agenda that is not even supported by their own data. Of the fields listed below only history is a liberal arts subject.

    "It's not happening. A study from Georgetown University listed the five college majors with the highest unemployment rates (crossed against popularity): clinical psychology, 19.5%; miscellaneous fine arts, 16.2%; United States history, 15.1%; library science, 15.0%; and military technologies and educational psychology are tied at 10.9%."
     
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  30. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    Again, a huge increase in degrees but only a small increase in liberal arts. Do these people read what they write?:


    "In 2009, 1,601,368 bachelor's degrees were conferred in the US, a 30% increase from 2000, which should be a good thing. But of these, a large plurality, 590,678, or 36.9%, was awarded in one or another of the liberal arts. That's higher than 2000's 36.1%."
     
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  31. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    The fact is that business degrees are designed to produce administrators as businesses these days are huge bureaucracies just like the state, so entrepreneurialism is a fanciful outcome.

    "The business bulge would be okay if students were trained in how to start their own businesses. But it's more likely that they dream of a lavish Wall Street job, one few will ever attain. In fact, that PayScale survey listed business as only the 59th best-paying college degree."
     
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  32. r2473

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    Agreed. I think you strengthened my point rather than weaken it.

    I'm not arguing that people should be lazy of mind. (I find people entirely focused on career and money to be very lazy of mind as much as I view undiciplined "hippies" to be lazy of mind).

    But this is an argument where there are no winners. I majored in philosophy, economics, and german language. Major in all. All in 5 years. I also managed to smoke a lot of pot, learn a lot, and make a lot of diverse friends. Even studied abroad for my entire 5th year (otherwise I would have easily been done in 4 or even 3.5, but without the german major and a whole lot poorer for having missed the study abroad experience)

    I also later took masters degerees in accounting and MIS and easily earned my CPA (first try, no "review course. Why? Because I actually paid attention and didn't get seduced by those idiotic powerpoint slides).

    One thing I can say for sure. All of the "liberal arts" majors laugh at the "boring", "narrow mined" business / career minded students. Likewise, the business / career minded students laugh at how the idiotic liberal arts students are wasting their time.

    In my view, both are right as much as they are wrong. Life if long. Plan for it wisely and build strong foundations for a happy life when you are young. It will pay dividends as you get older.

    Guess what I do for fun now? If you said read philosophy, classic literature, and carefully listen to quality music, you are right. Is this stuff boring? Should I instead be spending my money on more and bigger crap than my neighbor has? Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you like to do. Not me. Like an idiot, I love the liberal arts I studied. True, I'm probably wasting my life. I can be happy with that.
     
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  33. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

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    What the heck is ‘happiness’ anyway? You ask 100 people and you get 101 different answers and even those change from one year to the next.
    Career choices are just various forms of ‘work’. For most people work and happiness don’t go hand in hand.
     
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  34. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    You are more interested in philosophy than you realize. It would be a pity to waste such an interest. Or more precisely, to explore this interest in an undiciplined manner.
     
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  35. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

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    Actually, at this point of my life when the dust is all settled, I can afford to pursue other interests, one of which is philosophy. The subject is much more interesting and makes more sense now.
     
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  36. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    It depends on what you want from a college education. Traditionally, a college education was intended for the elite, aristocracy who didn't have to work. They sought a college education in order to learn how to think critically, and to understand and appreciate the world around them, and the things in it, not to prepare for a career. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia so that any Virginian who wanted a college education could get one for free.

    Professions were learned through apprenticeship, probably the more effective and efficient method of learning a profession.
     
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  37. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    this needs a thoughtful reply. moreover being my 1000th TT post (exults with a fist pump), i cannot post a serious one.

    i will continue after my gym session.
     
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  38. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    This is very true.

    Another way to look at things is to say business has outsourced training to the education system where the individual pays for it, rather than the company, and then complains about the product that such a system produces.






     
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  39. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    These guys playing xbox is the reason for the gaming industry, which is a major customer of computer hardware and software.
     
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  40. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    Rereading books at different points in your life is always interesting. They are "new" books each time.

    The best things in life and the best ways to spend your time really are (nearly) free. Life is very fair in this way. These things cannot be purchsed for any price and pretty much everyone can enjoy them if they are willing. And it certainly isn't just literature or other "high brow" pursuits. Its all around, provided you have the "sense" to enjoy them.

    Its actually amusing to reflect on the fact that, at no other point in history could so many people so easily (and without cost) enjoy so many things that previous generations could only dream about having........and nobody wants them anymore. In fact, pursuing / enjoying them is a waste of time.
     
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  41. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Sure, if you are a carpenter.

    Professions are learned most efficiently by studying the subject properly. Trying to learn it by watching someone else is good for repetitive work jobs, but the foundations for the future are laid by studying the fundamentals. You can learn to fix a home ventilation system by apprenticeship, but designing the heat transfer for a thermal power plant requires formal study of engineering.
     
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  42. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    It would be easy to imagine a system for training engineers that was entirely a function of the corporations themselves.

    It's easier and cheaper for them not to do this, but then you get the problem of too few or too inappropriately educated engineers.
     
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  43. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    It is not true. Corporate in-house training only works for specific skills. That is why corporations don't run in-house academic programs (usually - exceptions are the Services). It is not possible to recreate the teaching and research expertise of a University in-house in every company. In fact, corporations pay for their employees to get educated outside. Recruiting raw talent and training internally means that the company is missing out on getting students who have been trained much more broadly and in new fields which will influence the direction of future work. All major corporations have ties with engineering and finance schools whose faculty produces the students they need with the cutting-edge skills which older people inside the company do not have.
     
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  44. SoBad

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    The education system is working fine, as it always has been. The smart poor guys go into tech to make a living for themselves, the rich family kids (smart and dumb) go easy with humanities before assuming their roles in the society upon completing education, the girls attend college to find suitable husbands, and the dumb poor kids go into humanities and fall through the cracks accordingly. What else could you reasonably expect? The education system works.
     
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  45. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    I don't disagree with this, but the consequence is a potential loss of control. Hence, the continual complaint of lack of industry relevance.

    The fact is that it would be far easier to do and it wouldn't cost as much as you suggest, but the reality is that it is cheaper and better to do it the way you suggest it is currently done.

    But, say, research suggests that the current system produces 1.000 fewer engineering graduates per annum than necessary, well then you can keep on complaining or companies or industry bodies could create an in house system.



     
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  46. spaceman_spiff

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    I'm 33 years old, and I started college in 1996. The people in my generation, in my college classes, apparently had learned nothing in highschool. Also, my mom has been a teacher for nearly 40 years, and I hear the same complaints from her year after year.

    I'm not saying the current generation is any worse than mine. But from what I've seen, they're not any better, despite how bad my generation was.

    Given the number of people who were shot in and around my neighborhood in the years I lived there, I wouldn't say I lived in one of the good ones (though I wasn't in the ghetto). There were suburbs with far better schools than mine, but there were only a couple of neighborhoods with schools that were worse. So, I'd say I was at a pretty average or below-average school for my area up until highschool, when I got accepted to the magnet school.

    But even there, the enrollment was set at 50% black and 50% everyone else, and the school itself was a run-down old building in the bad part of town that used to be an all-black school back in the days of segregation (so you know the mostly white city council didn't spend much money taking care of it in those early years). It was a great school, but it was hardly a sheltered environment.

    And despite all that, I can still say that some of my early college classes were covering stuff I was taught back at an average/below-average middle school in Oklahoma. I think that's sad. After all, my freshman classes in highschool weren't going over stuff I learned in elementary school, and my middle school classes weren't going over stuff I learned in kindergarten.
     
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  47. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I did a business major (finance) and then attended law school.

    My oldest child is a junior, majoring in psychology at a liberal arts university. She is doing a minor in marketing in hopes it will help her get a job.

    I have to say, I regret majoring in business. I wish I had a stronger liberal arts foundation.

    The reason is that not having a strong foundation in liberal arts makes life difficult. There are lots of career paths that might have been suitable for me for which you need to, you know, know stuff. Without a broad foundation in history, literature, political science, it is hard to be a newspaper columnist, to pick one example.

    Not to mention how difficult it is to function among the elite at your company and make social conversation that touches on these subjects. How much smiling and nodding can one person be expected to do?

    I told my kids to get a liberal arts education. They may have to take crummy jobs when they get their undergraduate degrees. In the long run, however, I think they will be happier than if they treated college like trade school.

    Besides, none of them was suited for hard science or math.
     
    #47
  48. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    I am happy that i did electrical engineering undergrad. A strong higher math foundation opens a lot of doors. I went on to do an MBA later. I had a brief engineering career, followed by military service and then some investment banking experience.

    Now i can do pretty much anything i want. I plan to apply to med school in a couple of years time.

    It is tough to do a higher science or math degree later on in life, if you had begun with a liberal arts degree. It is just tough to catch up on a lot of stuff. On the other hand you can do liberal arts at pretty much any time of your life.
     
    #48
  49. Agent Orynge

    Agent Orynge Professional

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    There is nothing artistic about laziness. Nice try, though.
     
    #49
  50. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    Maybe you exaggerated?

    I graduated with a degree in international politics and foreign policy. I actually had to spend more time reading and researching than I did in the years when I initially was going for an engineering degree. For example, my classes on Russian politics and Russian foreign policy required more effort than calculus III or differential equations.

    There were months when I slept in the library more often than I slept at home. But yeah, other than that it was all 11-3 easy days.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
    #50

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