A Move Away from the Liberal Arts

A recent article in the Washington Post showed a dwindling number of humanities majors across the nation. Since 2008, the number of humanities majors has steadily decreased, while other majors like physics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science have seen tremendous increases.

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Professor Steven Pearlstein of George Mason University argues that, “some of the brightest students in Virginia had been misled…into thinking that choosing English or history as a major would doom them to lives as impecunious schoolteachers.” If Pearlstein is right and the market is good for English and History majors right now, then I have about a hundred friends that would like Pearlstein to give them directions to this fabled market.

Christy Buchanan, who works in academic advising at Wake Forest University, said, “A lot of our students feel parental pressure to go into business, economics, and medicine.” She blames this on “helicopter parenting.” Can you really blame them? Horror stories of student loan debt are getting worse every day and there does not seem to be any relief. A recent study shows that only “2% of employers are actively recruiting liberal arts degree holders. Compare that to the 27% that are recruiting engineering and computer information systems.”

No matter what, by the time a student is ready for college they should be making their own decisions. Nobody should actually force them to study a subject that they are not good at or not interested in, because they probably won’t be able to hold a job they don’t actually like anyway. Graduating high school students should also have an idea of what their life can look like after spending way too much on a degree that might not get them a job, ever.

We tend to think in terms of one or the other, blue or red, Pepsi or Coke. Perhaps the future of the educated college student is to have a hard science major and a humanities minor, or maybe the other way around. No matter how much we love the arts, the cold hard fact is that there may not be a lucrative career waiting for you on the other end of your degree. At the end of the day we all need to follow our hearts, but knowing some math never hurt anybody either.


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