“Nobody’s Gonna Go Out With Me…”

onthecouchThis blog was started in our Department back in May 2012, anticipating the 2012-13 academic year’s lecture series that had four different guests all focus on the relevance of the Humanities — a national debate here in the US for decades but one that was obviously heightened in the face of the 2008 economic collapse both here and abroad. The Department, under then Chair Ted Trost, decided to tackle this head on. And so I started posting periodically on why I think the Humanities (or, more broadly, the Liberal Arts) remain relevant. Continue reading

The Practical Humanities

bigracequarterpg

Did you see this recent post from the former CEO of Seagram Corporation entitled “Business and the Liberal Arts”? In it he advises students to pursue a major in the Liberal Arts rather than “pragmatically oriented majors” such as Business or Computer Science. He explains,

For all of the decisions young business leaders will be asked to make based on facts and figures, needs and wants, numbers and speculation, all of those choices will require one common skill: how to evaluate raw information, be it from people or a spreadsheet, and make reasoned and critical decisions. The ability to think clearly and critically — to understand what people mean rather than what they say — cannot be monetized, and in life should not be undervalued. In all the people who have worked for me over the years the ones who stood out the most were the people who were able to see beyond the facts and figures before them and understand what they mean in a larger context.

He further describes the adaptability that comes fromĀ “discovering how the world works” and emphasizes the need to adjust as technological innovation makes some training obsolete very quickly. Continue reading

“You Just Watch Me!”

My undergraduate degree was in what my university (Queen’s University) called Life Sciences–what others might have once called pre-med. Many of us wrote the MCAT (as I did) but not all of us got into medicine (as I didn’t, but as my roommate did). In our first year, we predictably took courses in Chemistry, Biology, Physics (each of which had its own three hour lab too, of course), Calculus, and Psychology–the last being an elective but everyone pretty much took it. In other years we enrolled in such courses as Organic Chemistry, Genetics, Biochemistry, Histology, Abnormal Psych, Anatomy, Statistics, Brain and Behavior, Physiology, etc. I would imagine that many of my classmates who, like the vast majority of us, didn’t get into medicine, have ended up in one of the many adjacent fields–such as going on to do a Master of Science degree in Microbiology (“micro” for the initiated), or eventually going into, say, Pharmacology–either to do research, work for a drug company’s marketing division (as one friend did after getting his Ph.D.), or owning your own pharmacy (the route taken by another good friend from my Life Sciences days). Continue reading

Journalist, Know Thyself

Back in April, 2012, Frank Bruni, a regular columnist for The New York Times Magazine, wrote an Op-ed piece that was much discussed at the time. Entitled “The Imperial Promise of College,” it argued that the condition of the current economy (e.g., the high un/under-employment rate, the staggering amount of collective student debt, etc.) should prompt college students to select majors that have direct, practical pay-off. After singling out a couple of examples of majors that, in all likelihood, turn out to be unrelated (or as he might have phrased it, irrelevant) to someone’s eventual career, he writes: Continue reading