Why are fewer and fewer students interested in liberal arts and more focused on professional degrees? Dan Edelstein's theory:
The only problem with this logic is that universities in fact bear a considerable responsibility for the brain drain away from the humanities. By raising the cost of education to stratospheric levels, we oblige students to seek a higher return on their investment. It is this sort of economic calculation, I suggest, and not some alleged generational change, that is driving students in droves towards preprofessional degrees.
He forecasts a dire future for the humanities.
Until the tuition imbalance stabilizes – and eventually Congress may well intervene to ensure that it does – humanities departments need to act more aggressively to ensure their survival. Increasing the turnout of majors may be beyond our reach, but we perhaps need to rethink the relationship between research and teaching. Do highly specialized courses offered by individual departments provide the best kind of background in the humanities for students headed for careers in law, engineering, finance, or science? Or do we need to offer more cross-disciplinary courses, ideally team-taught by faculty from different departments, on core questions and topics in the humanities? The bulk of our teaching is geared toward majors and graduate students. If we do not want to be the victims of the next recession (or, if it lasts long enough, the current one), we also need to target those students who feel they do no longer have the luxury of specializing in a humanistic subject.
If I were to choose one subject to start this movement to more practical instruction, it would be writing. Non-English majors are often forced to take some eclectic literature course when a more focused class on writing well would prove so much more practical over the course of their lives. I'm amazed how few people I encounter in the professional world who can write with clarity and command.
If we look at the Internet space, the world seems ready for a new and more focused educational paradigm for the modern age. Or at least an alternative to the traditional educational roadmap in the U.S.
RELATED: It's been clear for some time now that the tech sector is in the midst of a huge software engineer shortage. This weekend the NYTimes wrote about the wide variety of perks companies are dangling to not only hire new employees but keep the ones they have from bolting.
In a market like this, it wouldn't surprise me at all if a company like Google started its own alternative educational institution to train software engineers from an even earlier age in life (high school, perhaps), in exchange for a first look at candidates or just to expand the pool of candidates in general. Just as in sports, the cheapest candidates are those fresh out of school, before their salaries correct over time to match their contributions. Given how much of their work can be leveraged across a global audience now, the return on investment from a software engineer is massive.