I am a Katherine Brooks fan. Her book You Majored in What: Mapping Your Career Path From Chaos to Career has changed the way I think about the value of an undergraduate history degree in the marketplace. I have blogged about her work here and here.
Here is a snippet:
Brooks: Well, I think, you know, we are seeing some changes in higher ed. We are seeing some shift towards more “practical” degrees, such as business or engineering. And I think it’s… You have a headline on your Web site today that says something about retail adjusting to the new normal. And I think higher ed is adjusting to a new normal as well.
Brooks: … I think that fields like the liberal arts have always been excellent preparation for the workplace. They’ve always been a great start to becoming a better communicator, a good thinker and other skills. But I don’t know that the general public always sees it that way and I think sometimes, particularly now when money’s a little tight, people are saying, “Hey, I want bang for my buck in higher ed and I’m not sure what one does with a history major.”
Brooks: …I think liberal arts, in particular, will need to be more creative in the next 10, 20 years. I think they’re going to need to look at a blending more of, “How do we take this major and apply it to the workplace? How can we train our graduates through internships and other programs to be more valuable to employers?”
Ryssdal: Should we be worried then about a whole generation of lawyers and Wall Street bankers, without art history in their background…
Brooks: To be honest, I would worry about that, because I think that’s the value of liberal arts. It enhances the person, it gives you new ways of viewing a situation and I’ll tell you, it might have helped if some of our leaders of AIG and Wall Street and elsewhere had had a little classics training in their background.
I have said this before here, but I think history departments need to do a better job of teaching their students the benefits of a liberal-arts degree. It seems we have all forgotten.