Thursday, September 6, 2007

Taking Care of Business Every Way

I'm late getting back to this, because PJMB HQ had no internet for most of yesterday, but on this question of what happened to the projected surplus of jobs in the humanties, a couple of people in comments mentioned something that scares the fuck out of me.

NS, for one, points to a slowing demand for profs in the humanties. Job Cogburn raises the possibility of something that seems pretty plausible to me. The massive growth of pre-professional BAs has sucked a kids away from a traditional liberal arts-based education. Take a look at the Princeton Review's summary of the top-10 most popoluar majors in US colleges. Only four of the 10--biology, english, communications, and poli sci--are not pre-professional. And even then, in their blurb about why people should consider biology, the Princeton Review people say talk about students being pre-med.

Even worse, although the list doesn't say it ranks majors by popularity, I don't exactly feel all warm inside by the fact that number one is "Business Adminstration and Management." Ugh. I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't really believe in the value of a liberal arts undergrad education, so it really, really hurts to think of b-schools peeling off majors from philosophy and physics and Spanish or whatever.

And besides having all these bright, shiny ideals about undergrad education, I also want a fucking job teaching philosophy. But for that, there's got to be some philosophy students to teach.


Jon Cogburn said...

During breaks I've been trying unsuccessfully this morning to find the article published by two U. Cal business profs a few years ago that showed that getting an M.B.A. made no difference to your lifetime earnings. No one prior to them had compared M.B.A. graduates to students without M.B.A.s that had the same S.A.T. scores going into undergraduate. So while it is a fact that Harvard M.B.A.s tend to do very well, non Harvard M.B.A.s with the same S.A.T. scores do just as well (if I remember right the two professors were moved to do this by earlier similar research showing kids at big state schools to end up earning just as much as comparable kids at prestige universities).

Here is the crazy thing, if the M.B.A. is useless, then how much more useless must be the undergraduate business degree?

A few years ago U.S.A. Today published interesting statistics. Of American C.E.O's more have liberal arts undergraduate degrees than business degrees (albeit, the plurality have science and engineering degrees), and liberal arts majors tend to make less right out of school but ultimately rack up higher lifetime earnings than business majors.

I don't know if we need useless degrees to accommodate all the undergraduates who would not be going to college in any other country in the world. Even if that's the case, I still can't help but feeling that they would do better learning something useful (i.e. what the best and brightest have thought and learned about the human condition, scientific and mathematical literacy, and how to analyze, synthesize, and communicate) at a community college than getting a business degree in a big state school.

Two more bits of data- (1) My school does grade inflation studies, and the worst offenders are always education and the business schools. (2) People who say that the S.A.T. is not predictive of grades past the first year are citing scores for the whole university, not scores for each major. When you do that (and also take a huge sample size, as obviously there are many counterexamples to these things, including severely dyslexic people like myself), you find that in each major S.A.T. is still the best predictor. What happens is that in the second year people with lower S.A.T.'s tend to get into education and business, which are the worst at inflating grades.

Shoot, sorry for going on so long, back to work. If I can get citations on that study, I'll post it here later.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Jon -- Sorry for the delayed reply. I've had thoughts along similar lines. The business undergrads I've taught have (for the most part) been bright, articulate, and well-motivated (though not always for the right reasons). And since they go to an expensive university, they're also very well connected. They're going to do fine in life. But what does the business degree add to all that? If they were philosophy or english or math majors, they;d still have all that going for them. . . .

But one thing I wonder about is, with all those studies that show BAs' lifetime earnings are comparable to or better than those of people with b-school degrees, was that result peculiar to the generations who's been studied? Will it turn out to be true of my generation too? I'd like to think so, but it remains to be seen. . . .

Jon Cogburn said...

Ooh, that's a good point. The triumph of retail and retail support and death of manufacturing has changed employment so much in this country. When you add to that the dot bomb crash, it's probable that old statistics have no current bearing.

Your excellent blog motivated me to put some of my thoughts about being on the market at .

I channeled my id to produce a graduation speech about the state of universities at . As Homer Simpson says, "It's funny because it's true."