Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Risky Business

From a very interesting Louis Menand article about the value of college in America:

The most interesting finding is that students majoring in liberal-arts fields—sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities—do better on the C.L.A., and show greater improvement, than students majoring in non-liberal-arts fields such as business, education and social work, communications, engineering and computer science, and health. There are a number of explanations. Liberal-arts students are more likely to take courses with substantial amounts of reading and writing; they are more likely to attend selective colleges, and institutional selectivity correlates positively with learning; and they are better prepared academically for college, which makes them more likely to improve. The students who score the lowest and improve the least are the business majors.

Menand goes on to point out that business is the number one major in American colleges, accounting for 22 percent of bachelor's degrees.

1 comment:

David said...

Thanks for sharing this article. I'm definitely a theory 2 person.

But still not excited about the "Adrift" findings. Of course Liberal Arts majors fare better on the CLA. They are prepped for it simply by the work they do for courses. Meanwhile, those disciplines which do worse emphasize other skills. Business students are horrible writers (the voice of experience as I've read many atrocious papers by them) but most are actually pretty good at interpersonal communication. This isn't really surprising when you look at the fact that business educators aren't always the best writers either. English teachers are, however. The discipline-based system we have designed results in a narrow range of skills in those who are educating our students.

I guess the real question is: what skills do we want all college grads to have? If they all need to be good writers, good critical thinkers, etc. then there is a strong argument for breadth and cross-disciplinary courses so that they can gain a wide range of skills by being taught by those who have strengths in certain areas.