Am I being too cynical? Majors edition

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  1. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I know someone who knows someone with the major I mention above. As far as I can tell said person has a normal old job and nothing that particularly entails either entreprenurship and/or innovation.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Saul,

      If I may… if you are making the first comment on a post of your own, it probably means it needs a little more time in the oven. Go back to the draft page and find a way to incorporate that thought into the piece itself.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    It sounds like a business lite major plus the school’s probably getting a lot of money from the tech companies and letting them determine what’s worth studying.Report

  3. Avatar zic
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    says:

    Being entrepreneurial is, as much as anything, a method of doing things; mostly the intent a business that will not remain small, (so selling your blueberry pie nationally, not just locally, for instance.) At the university level, it involves setting up/providing spaces for small businesses students run with things like back-office support, mailing addresses and a live person answering the phone, etc.; at least in programs I’ve written about. Consider it a variation on the standard MBA type program, where the goal is the biz skills to run a small and lean business that grows quickly instead of becoming a cog in the wheel of a large, already-existing business.Report

  4. Avatar Notme
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    says:

    How does an mfa prepare somone to be a professional artist? Like the entrepreneurship program maybe it does so simpley because the program says it does.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Notme
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      says:

      bullcrap. mfa isn’t at all required to be a professional artist. writers routinely use their mfa as “time to write my first novel”. Which, of course, you can do outside of school too.Report

  5. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    The first place to look for majors that won’t add up to anything after graduation isn’t art departement, its the majors you find many D1 scholarships athletes taking. I’ve seen general studies and sports adminastraion among others.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
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      says:

      Sports administration is not a bad degree if you want to get into coaching (which a lot of athletes are). My ex-girlfriend’s brother went that route, as did someone else I knew (neither scholarship athletes) and are coaches at small schools. Not sure it will do a lot on its own, but in conjunction with a teachers cert track it’s probably good for getting a job at a small school where you’re the coach and athletic director.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak
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      says:

      One of the profs at UPitt was telling our class how he used to rag on the sports kids.
      Apparently he actually apologized to the football player taking some honestly difficult political science courses, who had just kept his mouth shut through the entire thing.Report

  6. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    I’m glad to get this post alert by email.

    I’m of the opinion that people who think that one major or area of study is intrinsically better than another are the type of people who see life as a series of boxes to check off and who do not value knowledge in itself.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      @christopher-carr

      I enjoyed the swipe.

      I don’t think one major or area of study is necessarily better than another but I do think that it is worth questioning whether somethings really can be taught and whether they deserve to be fields of study or not.

      We are still dealing with issues of people going into massive student debt. My ideal solution would be if we all believed that college education should be easily affordable for all. The next solution is figuring out what to do make college not as mandatory (the old college isn’t for everyone argument). There are lots of debates about why people attend college/university and a seemingly large consensus that many people attend simply because of the credential as a way of getting a middle-class or upper-middle class job. If this is true, the thing to do would be to turn business and business-lite majors into apprenticeships instead of gutting the arts and humanities and the sciences.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Maybe in a few decades everyone will be convinced the taxpayers should pay for everyone’s education, but by then everyone will be going for PHDs given that probably a BS/A will not be worth much.

        We’ve been talking about a non college path for decades and never done much about it: trade schools / community college. Not everyone needs or should go to college. But a lot of people also don’t want to get their hands dirty on real work. They just want to sit in an office.

        And do we really need colleges anyway? Someone with drive can get an equivalent education in many fields by reading the material and doing the course work and taking the tests. No professor, no classrooms, no institutions needed.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        “instead of gutting the arts and humanities and the sciences.”

        you should spend some time digging through ipeds data.

        http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/2014menu_tables.asp

        Table 322.10 is the one you’re probably most interested in. plus you can download .xls files, whee!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Saul,
        Good lord. You can teach someone how to stop their own Heart from beating or how to not breathe until they go unconscious. You can teach someone how to look at a picture and figure out who took it, and where, with contextual clues like “lighting level and quality”

        Is Entrepreneurship that hard to teach? Nah. Our school system may not be suited for it, though.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Damon,
        you need colleges to the extent that you don’t want to screen people some other way.
        I’ve met the type of people who didn’t go to college and got awesome jobs… you wouldn’t want to hire them (they LIKE getting fired, it’s fun!)Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @kim
        Perhaps
        But my point was simply to illustrate that the need to congregate in once place, with professors, dorm rooms, etc. is really no longer necessary in a lot of cases. Nor is the associated costs of all that necessary.Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman
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    says:

    My alma mater has an entrepreneur program. Has to take a couple classes. It’s legit. Things like business law, types of businesses (LLC, S-Curve, etc), small business executive management, and so on.

    I don’t think it’s business-lite as @rufus-f says, but a variation of and focus within business ed.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    @saul-degraw I feel like I’m someone who can probably address your objection here, but first I feel like I have to get a better feel of what it is your objection actually is.

    What is it about exactly is your objection to entrepreneurship or innovation majors? Is that make you think they aren’t learned skills, or that such skills are an inappropriate subject for academia — or is it something else?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      1. I am not sure that they are learned skills. I would say that this deserves a major of its own if I believed it could lead a 22 year old to having a remarkably different career trajectory than a normal business degree. Many people from USF will start some cool new start-ups but I doubt it will be because they studied entrepreneurship and innovation.

      2. See what I wrote to Christopher Carr above. If we are concerned about the skyrocketing costs of a college education and are starting to want to find ways to give people middle class and upper-middle class lives without going to college, the best thing in my mind is to create paths for people who are just in college and university for the credential. So we should have business apprenticeships and return college and university instead of gutting the arts and humanities departments for a climbing wall.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Hmmm…

        Well, this is probably going to have to be a whole other post.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        The best (and with the greatest success rates, too) programs here are in the state colleges, and believe it or not, located at community colleges. This is, in great part, because many of the students are learning skilled trades and will start their own businesses; often while still in school, often while working and going to school at the same time.

        So I really, really don’t think you’re being fair here; in general. And in specific, in Silicon Valley, I’d readily guess the program is geared to high-tech startups and has a very specific focus on not only developing products, but on attracting venture capital. There is a huge difference between working for an existing business and launching a new business, and I can easily see why it would behove a school to have different majors, and would expect there to be some requirement overlap in requirements.

        But learning how to become a manager for an existing company and how to launch a new company are distinct business skill sets.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @tod-kelly

        I look forward to it if you write it.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Saul, look at it this way… Let’s say you have a great idea for an innovation. You could make millions.

        Now what? Do you know what to do next? Any idea how to run a startup? That’s what you can be taught. Or what someone whose help you enlist could gave been taught.

        Entrepreneurship programs aren’t unique to USF or Silicon Valley. I’m looking at the Princeton Review top undergrad programs list and seeing urban schools in Houston and Philadelphia, state flagship schools in Arizona and Oklahoma, private schools like Syracuse and Baylor, and even BYU that has a built in first choice audience. It doesn’t strike me as particularly gimmicky, even setting aside my limited experience with their courses.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    See it as Ethnic Marionette Theory for the red state crowd.Report

  10. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
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    says:

    One of the UC schools used to have a “History of Consciousness” graduate program. I rolled my eyes when I heard about it, and I’m still not sure what I think of the program from what little I know. It’s not really my approach to history. (It’s not just history, but history is a part of it). But I’ll say the following about it:

    1. Its title is buzz-wordy, and buzz-wordiness seems to be something the OP claims to object to. However, it’s not about business, so I guess that’s okay.

    2. The people I know personally who’ve graduated from the (by my count, two) seem exceptionally bright and talented and well-served by their choice of grad school discipline.

    In short, don’t judge a major by its title.

    From reading the description of the program, I’m skeptical of it. But I would need to know more. I’d need to know what the classes are like, how rigorous the program is, and how demanding the professors are that the students display critical thought. I’d also need to know more about the school and how much it requires when it comes to studying beyond one’s major. I do question the assertion that “entrepreneurship can’t be learned.” But maybe it can’t be learned, or can be learned only imperfectly, in the classroom. And whether it can be learned or not, it can be studied and interpreted, which is the type of things that academic disciplines do best. Whether this program advances that end or not, I’d hesitate to say without reading more than how its advertised to, as the OP calls them, “naive suckers.”

    It may be hard to accept, but the study of business can be academically rigorous. Or it can be fluff credentialism. Now, maybe some business programs tend to be more obviously “fluffy” than others, so that accounting might be rigorous while marketing might not be. But I wouldn’t know because I’ve never taken a business class.

    Christopher Carr’s point above is a good one. Aside from whatever joy I get when someone else besides me is the one who lobs a tu quoque, it’s also good because it points to an irony that the OP doesn’t explore. Fluff credentialism is an accusation sometimes lobbed against art degrees and humanities degrees. Another item: I suspect more people who make such criticisms of humanities degrees have taken at least a few humanities courses while fewer who criticize business degrees have taken business courses. That doesn’t mean one can’t criticize, but it’s important to keep one’s criticism in perspective.Report

  11. Avatar j r
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    says:

    Since this is turning into a give Saul unsolicited advice post, I might as well join in.

    You keep referencing Paying for the Party as your go to resource for discussions of higher education. I’ve not read it, but I’m sure it is a fine book. It is, however, an ethnographic study of a few students at one particular school. There’s nothing wrong with ethnographies and case studies; they help us develop an understanding of the world that merely looking at statistics cannot. That being said, they are extremely limited in scope and, perhaps more importantly, are very open to having the researcher impart her own views and theories onto the subjects and the narrative.

    Just because a couple of kids at Indiana University had one experience of a particular major does not mean that is always, or even mostly, the case. You really need to round out one theory with other viewpoints and with actual empirical data.

    On the particular point, the program in question is probably part about teaching a specific set of skills that might differentiate it from other MBA programs and part about marketing and differentiation; that, however, is what all schools do. Why should this be any different?Report

    • Avatar Notme in reply to j r
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      says:

      Jr

      I think saul has a chip on his shoulder about other majors since he feels that his MFA isn’t valued enough by society and had to go slumming and get a law degree.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Notme
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        says:

        I find very little to know value in trying to psychoanalyze people via the internet. Much better to simply listen and respond to what they are saying, not to what we think their interior motivations are.Report

  12. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Saul, there are drama and art schools. You went to one. You studied how to be a director there. Others studied how to be an actor or something else in the theatre world. People go to art school and learn how to paint, sculpt, or other technqiues of the fine art. I bring this up because there lots of people who would argue that you can’t teach somebody to be an artisit in the fine or plastic arts, it needs to be something innate. There might be truth to this to an extent but even people with innate talent need a lot of teaching to refine their technique. During the golden age of Hollywood, the studios put a lot of emphasis on teaching their stars and would be stars how to act, sing, dance, and carry themselves in public. The moguls didn’t hope that innate talent would carry the day, they actively worked on shaping and refining it.

    A lot of people who take entrepeneurship and innovation might have the innate ability to be entrepreneurs but need some technique teaching and refinement becasue they have the brilliant idea but they don’t know where to begin or they know where to begin but need some courage to act. Entrepreneurship and innovation programs could be similar to would be busines people as drama school is to would be actors.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      But how do we know that classes like Entrepreneurship and Innovation aren’t cynical ploys to take the money of untalented people who will never be able to make a living in the startup industry?Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      My guess is that Saul is onto something. Someone who wants to be an entrepreneur and can get into Stanford should probably go to Stanford over USF (I don’t know if that’s what it goes by). The USF, however, likely isn’t going after that student. They’re going after the student who can’t get into Stanford or Berkeley. And having an entrepreneurship program gives USF some point of differentiation over all the other second-tier (or maybe third; I don’t know) b-schools.

      But this is nothing new. All schools do this. For the group of students deciding between Stanford and Harvard and Wharton, each of those places is going to try to sell themselves on some broadly defined point of differentiation over the others.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Lee,
      I can’t hear you…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWHZBmZOH28

      How the fuck do you go to Peabody and not know how to read music on a page?
      (actually, cancel that. you can get a full scholarship to peabody at the age of FIVE???)

      Yeah, I’m going to say there are certain skills that you don’t need to teach someone.Report

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