Colleges Defend the Humanities Despite High Costs, Dim Job Prospects

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by jeffisjeff, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
    Messages:
    17,561
    Why Greek or Latin? I had 6 years of Spanish. Enough in middle school and high school, that my college requirement was waived. Spanish was/is far more practical, living in the US. I, also, don't know that an art major (bear in mind that mine was 38 years ago), had to take required English, Lit, Sciences, History, Math (statistics pre-calculators!). I think it was pretty broad. But, it may have changed. And I was a fine arts major, not a graphic design major. That didn't exist, as a major, when I was in school. What was difficult for and art major, was that we had to take all of the required basics that everyone else had to take. but, we had to squeeze in 2 studio art classes (which met for 3 hours twice a week) and art history for art majors (2 hour lectures twice a week and a 2 hour lab once a week). It was a time nightmare!
     
  2. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2003
    Messages:
    10,664
  3. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Messages:
    7,571
    I did not attend a vocational school, so I'm not sure why you think my college education was solely composed of graphic design classes. My major program required at least 124 hours to complete, only 23 of which were major-related (here's the 2013 course catalog of my degree at my school, similar to mine in 1998).

    The rest of the hours required were for what we called LERs - Liberal Education Requirements - and there were requirements within that you had to take a wide variety of classes. I had to take classes in history, science, English, foreign language, philosophy. I actually took an entire year of collegiate-level Latin, does that count for you :p I suffered through biology and microeconomics and sociology for my BS, though thankfully they had removed the math requirement the year before I started. Felt very broad to me ...

    Edit for clarity: PRLady, I know you weren't speaking to my degree specifically, but someone majoring in graphic design — which I did, so I thought I'd expand on my experience with college education :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  4. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
    Messages:
    17,561
    Ooh, you're lucky. I had to take statistics, pre calculators! But, seriously, I agree with you. I had a 4 year university education. My major was art, that was not all I took. Though, I just reread my last post and it does not say much for my writing skills :lol:. I meant to say that I do not think an art major is a narrow field of education. It is very well rounded.
     
  5. Seerek

    Seerek Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2002
    Messages:
    3,481
    Interestingly, some engineering and natural science undergraduate programs have been modified recently to increase their humanities component requirement in order to graduate (now anywhere from 25-40% of all elective courses).
     
  6. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Messages:
    163
    I'm biased here, but as someone about to get a master's degree in English, I disagree. First, everyone has different aptitudes so you may say you would want to steer your hypothetical child toward some math or other related field, but you can't force aptitude and what if the child loved music, for example? I have an undergraduate degree in business because when I entered college at 18, I thought that it would be the best degree to have for practical reasons. But after being in the working world, I realize the mindset of the business world and I just aren't compatible. Besides, I have learned more about critical thinking by analyzing texts than I ever did studying management. Also, good writing stands out in the business world--not just correct writing but GOOD writing. Masterful use of words is more important than most people realize. I argue that the same applies to what some consider a useless degree--art history. But studying art history also results highly developed critical thinking skills. One more thing: I don't see teamwork as something that one develops in courses. That's why there are team sports (and if I get one more sports term applied to the business world, like "let's huddle" instead of "let's all get together and talk," I think I'm gonna scream). Besides, if one has critical thinking skills, one can understand one's place in one's work operation and behave accordingly.
     
  7. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Messages:
    163
    To my mother's credit, she recommended I take Spanish, which I did for 8 years. I have to say that it has come in handy, even if I am far from fluent.
     
  8. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Messages:
    163
    My two cents about humanities in general: the more impersonal, mechanized, and quantified that the world becomes, the more we need the humanities. Anybody recall that old Bob Seger song "Feel Like a Number"? The humanities are the antidote.
     
  9. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    If it's at all possible, I'd steer my future kids toward a double major (or a major and minor) in different fields. Especially if they show interest and aptitude in multiple fields. The more abilities you have, the more valuable you will be in an increasingly automated world. Computers do specialized things much better than we can, but we are still much better at computers at combining ideas. Computers only know what we program them to know, while people can combine any of their interests to make something interesting, new, and/or useful.

    My mother was not wrong for steering me towards biology. It has taught me a lot and puts a roof over my head. It isn't my absolutely passion, but I liked it enough to major in it, and it wasn't something I could learn on my own anyway. I've cobbled together an arts education for myself (in addition to my studio art minor in undergrad) in preparation for a career change, but I don't regret the time spent in biology.

    Although, in these difficult economic times, what's more important than your major is your own go-getter attitude and the connections you make. I have a friend moving from Atlanta to San Francisco to take an entry-level research position at large biotech company, which will pay a pretty penny. She had a friend at the company and he saved an opening for her. Undoubtedly, there are many recent science grads in the Bay Area who could have done the job too, but her friend could vouch for her.
     
  10. dinakt

    dinakt Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2008
    Messages:
    3,841
    I agree with that. Understanding of history is ever evolving; and creativity and critical thinking come in play while evaluating and reassessing history though many possible perspectives. History is impossible to truly know; it is highly varied based on a point of view; and there are constant discoveries happening there as in any other field.
     
  11. BreakfastClub

    BreakfastClub Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
    Messages:
    783
    Ding ding ding ding ding.

    I've had 3 different careers and worked for 6 companies in the 19 years I graduated with my BA. Every job I've ever got I got through a connection and very proactive pursuit of that connection. And I have never worked in a job that had anything to with my major. Ding ding ding #2 is about ongoing education. I've always taken classes, kept up and added skill sets and done self study.

    For those of you waxing poetic about graphic design, in 1999 I decided to change careers to graphic design and learned to code. I rapidly flew through a career that went from jack if all trades web designer to highly specialized information architect and user researcher. I am now a director of user experience at a Fortune 50 and I can tell you that we can't hire talent or retain talent fast enough -- people with GOOD skill in visual design for web, mobile or the tv screen/interaction design/information architecture/prototyping and psychology, cog sci or human factors skill sets. If you have a pulse and can document flows, wireframes and design or skin sites, apps and/or 10 foot experiences and you move to Silicon Valley with 2 years experience, you'll have your pick of employers large and small offering you 100K to start.

    As for degrees, I used skills learned from my first two careers in marketing and sales to establish and sell in the specialized arm of the UX practice I now run - grew it from a team of one (myself) to a team of 8 in less than 5 years. My rock star team works at the intersection of technology, psychology, cognitive science and design. We all do the type of same work yet have degrees that range wildly: physics, advertising, communications, anthropology, sociology, information systems and graphic design. What we all share is a passion for detail and logic, insatiable curiosity, fascination with technology, need to constantly be challenged, ability to work and think independently to solve problems, and high work ethic. And what everyone who works for me has in common is that they came to me through a personal recommendation and proactively pursued the position with me.

    And my personal learning never ends. While I run a UX team, I'm essentially an evangelist, coach, leader and manager and I actively seek out any and all opportunities to become a better communicator, presenter, mentor and motivator. I'm a long ways away from my original Physics BA or any graphic design class ... or even my graduate classes in human factors (a degree I didn't even bother to finish because job opportunities in UX are so great.)

    Get a degree in whatever interests you, but more importantly, learn to network, get good at making small talk, practice being proactive, learn to negotiate and always follow through. These are the soft skills that will open the doors for a job and help you land one.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  12. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Messages:
    7,571
    I think learning a language goes well beyond simply knowing/conversing in it. I learned a ton about root words, structure, grammar, etc from le dead Latin. It's the way you learn to learn.

    BreakfastClub, I may have to pick your brain at some point. I currently do newspaper design/layout, but I've been thinking about getting into UX as I watch my industry slowly shrivel up and die. I just looked up what a wireframe is and :rofl: boy does that look familiar! My alma mater (Kent State) actually offers a wholly-online graduate degree in UX.
     
  13. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    BreakfastClub is going to be the most popular person in this thread, because improving UX for research scientists is like, my dream job. :)
     
  14. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
    Messages:
    700
    Ding, ding, ding, and Ding. I would quote the whole post, but it's big. Very well said.
     
  15. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Messages:
    163
    This. ^^^
     
  16. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2005
    Messages:
    17,900
  17. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    To me, that's like businesses saying that they value good writing.

    If critical thinking, etc., is more important than major and technical skills have such a short shelf life, why is that people with technical degrees are hired so much more often than people who have non-technical degrees?
     
  18. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2001
    Messages:
    16,296
    Because the tech skills are needed right now, immediately, and there aren't enough people with them. Employers can train to a certain extent, but they're relying on the fact that you're coming in with some sort of baseline in current technology.

    Your tech skills can get outdated very quickly. You get hired in for your tech skills, and then the expectation is that you'd constantly need to upgrade those tech skills.

    And my impression from that article and from actual hiring patterns over the years is that this article is painting an overly rosy picture. It's not that major doesn't matter. It's that you *do* need field-specific skills (as the article says) to get hired, but you *also* need more than just field-specific skills. I've been advising engineers for a long time, and one thing I tell them can really help in their career is an ability to write and otherwise communicate. This is in addition to their engineering skills, not instead of them.
     
  19. Seerek

    Seerek Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2002
    Messages:
    3,481
    Exactly - as I mentioned above, engineering undergraduate programs have actually caught on to this and have increased both their humanities elective requirement, and their communications/presentation/writing requirement (no actual credits, but still required to graduate).
     
  20. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    14,544
    That is true. Unfortunately, however, I haven't seen much improvement in writing ability over the past decade or so.