Last Updated Jan 4, 2010 6:59 PM EST
That's was my reaction yesterday when I read an article in The New York Times about a higher-ed trend of making universities more vocational.
Some schools are ditching what they consider to be their weakest liberal arts links, think philosophy and the classics, to make room for business, environmental science, public health and other practical majors.
Many students and parents believe that the ticket to minting money is majoring in something vocational in college. Exhibit A is my nephew Jack, who is making last-minute decisions about where he should apply to college. Jack's mom (my sister) is worried that he might not get into any of the three California public universities that he applied to because of the state's budget cuts. So over the holidays, my sister asked me to suggest some out-of-state public universities in the West that offer cheap tuition to California residents to complete Jack's list.
Based on Jack's grades and other factors, I suggested that he look at Northern Arizona State University and Southern Oregon University. Jack, a future business major, wasn't pleased with the ideas.
Jack accused his mom of suggesting schools that he suspected were really liberal arts colleges. (For the record, only Southern Oregon University is a public liberal arts college.) Jack explained that he didn't want to write a lot of essays and research papers in college, which is what liberal arts institutions, to their credit, tend to require. Jack apparently just wants to attend college to learn "business" and move on to a career.
What a lot of teens pursuing practical majors don't realize is that employers aren't going to hire a business major, a environmental science major or anybody else if they don't possess good writing and speaking skills. And there is no better place to hone these skills than in a Socratic seminar or an English literature class.
As for budding business majors, in a recent PayScale survey of the best and worst paying college degrees, business majors came out 35th out of 75 majors in terms of salaries. Frankly, I'd rather hire a smart philosophy major.
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a TheCollegeSolutionBlog.