Posts from "March, 2014"

Utah: Most Cosmopolitan State in the U.S.?

If we’re talking about the number of people with extensive foreign experience and near-native foreign language ability, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” It was my first big surprise upon arriving in Utah over 20 years ago, and now so observes Nicholas Kristof of the NYT (below).

The deeper point not to be missed, however, is that language study and, more broadly, the humanities and in-depth experience abroad are a magnet for global business. Those who think that language study is “not useful” or “a waste of time” because the world speaks English are clearly mistaken. The explosive growth of global companies and organizations locating in Utah (of all places) stands as clear evidence. Graduates of Utah’s universities are also heavily recruited by government agencies and for overseas employment by multinationals.

This success explains why Utah now has one of the biggest language immersion programs in the country. Kids in even remote cowboy towns can do half of the curriculum from 1st grade through the end of high school in Spanish, French, Portuguese or Chinese. More languages are currently being considered. The reason is that a majority of Utahns understand that opportunity at home now means opening on to the world.


Utah may well be the most cosmopolitan state in America. Vast numbers of young Mormons — increasingly women as well as men — spend a couple of years abroad as missionaries and return jabbering in Thai or Portuguese and bearing a wealth of international experience.

More than 130 languages are spoken
daily in commerce in Utah, according to the University of Utah, and
that’s one reason it sometimes tops the Forbes list of best states to do
business. The state is a center for trade and for global companies.

read here:

The Trades or Art History? Gopnick and Zakaria Discuss the Merits of the Humanities

President Obama’s recent crack about the study of art history as ineffective career training was challenged by an art historian, to whom he later apologized. If jokes, however, depend on stereotypes to be funny, they also reinforce them–in this case, that art history, and more broadly, the humanities, are frivolous pursuits with little worth for professional life. We understand what the president meant and studying a trade is fine. But his quip nonetheless piggybacks on an insidious “classist” mentality in its reinforcement of the social and economic divides that the American education system was designed precisely to overcome. The choice shouldn’t be either/or, but both, and for economic reasons.

Without wanting to reduce the study of art history to its market value, Adam Gopnick rightly mentions that many companies in the modern economy owe their success to design and esthetics (Steve Jobs claimed that Apple’s success derives from being “at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts”); Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind convincingly argues the same point (yesterday’s “soft” skills are today’s “hard” skills); and, if many engineering schools around the country encourage or require students to study the arts it’s because they know that success depends on innovation, and innovation depends on attention to design and on the human interface.

watch here:

previous post on the value of art history: