The Economics of the Humanities

You’ve heard the story: our modern economy demands more and more students to pursue scientific and technical fields to keep up the pace of growth.Given the exorbitant costs of a college education, students should be discouraged from pursuing frivolous, non-productive fields such as the arts and humanities. And so on…

A recent article from the Economist challenges these myths… from an economic point of view. The author points to facts often overlooked in conventional analyses of productivity. He also reminds us of the enriching experiences and finer pleasures available in advanced societies–experiences and pleasures that are directly tied to the flourishing of the humanities.

Excerpt:

What is economic growth for, anyway? It’s for expanding our choices and making life better. Is it really so surprising that, as we grow wealthier as a society, more and more of our young people, when the amazing resources of the modern university are put at their disposal, choose to use them learning something satisfying and enriching and not for anything except cherishing the rest of their lives? Is it really so surprising that taxpayers are not in revolt over the existence of poetry professors?

As we grow wealthier as a society, we also devote ever more money and time listening to music, attending performances, reading books, watching film and TV. Somebody has to make this stuff, and I’m certain its full value is not captured in the economists’ growth stats. I spent last evening reading a fine Pulitzer prize-winning novel by a graduate of a state-university creative-writing program. I appreciate everything math majors do for us. I really do. But, as far as I know, a math major has never made me cry.

read more: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/11/education-and-economics

(thanks to Marc Olivier for the link)

Why Reading the News is Crucial

Here is a point frequently made to me by employers: today’s students don’t know much about the world around them, they don’t read the news, they can’t connect the dots.

Is this you?

When I ask students on campus about this observation, many agree. They find the news boring or disturbing, they don’t have time (but I’m guessing they have time for Facebook), they don’t like politics, they don’t see the connections to their life, and so on.

The most lofty goal for staying abreast of world events is to become an informed citizen in a democratic society. When you go to vote and you know little about the underlying economic and socio-political forces driving current events, on what basis do you decide?

A more down to earth, but interrelated, reason is that many employers–from government agencies to business–require their hirees to be informed about current events. It’s not enough to speak a foreign language, to live abroad or to scan Yahoo headlines; to impress top-shelf employers, you need to be able to demonstrate global awareness and to develop a well-reasoned analysis of issues that matter in the real world. The best way to get started is to regularly consult major newspapers and weeklies (NYT, Wash Post, LA Times, Newsweek, New Republic). At a recent conference on higher education, business people and educators pointed to The Economist as an ideal source of weekly analysis. It’s an intelligent, brief and extremely well-written magazine with academic discounts for students. I quote from a CEO of an international company: “If students would just read the Economist every week they’d be ahead of the game.”

Even better for BYU students: if you know a foreign language, use your competitive advantage and read major papers and political magazines from your language area.

If you’re not reading the news, start today.

ASU President: Why the U.S. Economy Needs Liberal Arts Majors

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently argued that Florida needs to refocus attention and tax dollars on math, science and engineering in order to spur job creation. He wants to do this, however, at the expense of liberal arts majors, pointing to anthropology in particular as a frivolous pursuit. Arizona State University president points out the flaws in the argument and underscores the value of the liberal arts, even in the area of job creation.

read here: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2011/10/michael_m_crow_president_of_arizona_state_university_explains_wh.html

Scholarships to Consider

0
false

18 pt
18 pt
0
0

false
false
false

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}


0
false

18 pt
18 pt
0
0

false
false
false

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

0
false

18 pt
18 pt
0
0

false
false
false

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Visit http://opsf.byu.edu/
for information on the following scholarship opportunities:

Gates-Cambridge Scholarship
The Gates-Cambridge Scholarship funds graduate school at the University of
Cambridge. Deadline: October 1 for some fields, October 15 for others
(see website for details). 

Hertz Foundation Fellowship 
Provides
fellowships tenable at three dozen of the nation’s finest universities for
graduate work leading to a Ph.D. in applications of the physical sciences. Deadline:
October 30, 2010.

Harry S. Truman Scholarship 
Are
you planning on working in civil/public service? The Truman funds graduate
school for students who have plans to work in a public service capacity, which
covers a very wide range of professions and careers. Deadline: November 2011

Critical Language Scholarship Program
The
CLS funds language instruction abroad in Arabic, Persian, Azerbaijani,
Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese,
Japanese, or Russian. Deadline: November 15, 2011.

National Security Education Program (NSEP)
Boren Awards

The NSEP offers undergraduate and graduate awards
of $4,000-$30,000 for study abroad in areas that are critical to U.S. security
interests: Africa, Asia, Eastern & Central Europe, Middle East, Latin
America, and the Caribbean. Deadline: January 31, 2012.

Why You Need Passion

Following one’s “passion” in a time of financial crisis and a tough labor market may seem frivolous and even risky. Yet employers and HR directors often tell me that the thing they like about humanities majors is their passion for the subject matter. Even if humanities fields (medieval philosophy, renaissance poetry, 19th-century French art, etc.) have few direct or obvious connections with the world of work, employers know that this underlying passion, usually fuelled by intellectual curiosity, is a rare and highly desirable trait, one that can be harnassed to other  pursuits valued by the marketplace.

Steve Jobs perhaps explains best why passion, or “loving what you do” is so crucial for a long and successful career:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuNQgln6TL0&feature=related

See also this NYT piece on how Jobs channeled his passion for culture and style into product development:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/08/business/how-steve-jobs-infused-passion-into-a-commodity.html?_r=1&hp

Want a Job? Major in liberal arts…

This is the title of a recent article in the NY Daily News. More and more companies are rediscovering the value of a liberal arts education. If you’re a student in the College of Humanities, make sure you know precisely what skills are valued and learn how to talk about them in a way that will later be appealing to employers.  
(thanks to Kristen Matthews for the link)

Humanities and Innovation

Students in vocational fields (engineering, business, finance, etc.) often think about general education courses, and especially humanities courses, as a check-list of useless hurdles to get past in order to graduate. Tuition-paying parents and career advisors under pressure from higher ups to get students to graduate quickly can often reinforce this view by discouraging students from double majoring or even minoring in “impractical” fields such as literature, philosophy or foreign language.  

Could it be that a purely practical approach to education is all wrong?

If we take Steve Jobs as an example, the answer is clearly “yes”. Jobs is “great” not simply because of his technical education but because he was an innovator. He was able to imagine the technological products and services people would desire before they existed. How was he able to do this?

A new book, The Innovator’s DNA, studies successful CEO’s and cites five common traits of innovative behavior: questioning, experimenting, observing, associating and
networking, which they claim must be coupled with a “ceaseless
curiosity and willingness to take risks.” Breakthrough ideas, they argue, do not come from purely disciplinary or linear thinking, they are fueled by diverse experiences and ways of thinking, i.e., the kind of experiences and thinking that come from intellectual exploration and not from blind focus on one simple goal (studying one discipline, quick graduation, making money, acquiring trophies of success, etc.).

This information on innovative behavior could, of course, easily evolve into a new kind of check-list in students’ hands. Jobs himself has a better idea: open your mind… study the liberal arts. Jobs: “The reason that Apple is able to create products like iPad
is because we always try to be at the intersection of technology and
liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both.”

Read more on Jobs and The Innovator’s DNA here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/technology/steve-jobs-and-the-rewards-of-risk-taking.html?hp

Read more on Steve Jobs and the Humanities in an earlier H+ post here: http://humanitiesplus.byu.edu/2010/01/steve-jobs-touts-liberal-arts.html