Is a business degree valuable?
If there is one thing I remember from my short-lived days as a BBA student, it is not the countless dollars spent on a calculus tutor or hours mindlessly crunching numbers.
The thing I remember most is a joke made in the early weeks of BU111.
“What do you say to the philosophy major?” the professor asked. Despite a lecture hall of clever, over-eager business kids, no one knew how to respond. He answered for us, “How much do I owe you for the pizza?”
Sure, I thought it was amusing at the time.
I was young and impressionable and if a professor was going to tell me that being a business student made me better than my peers, of course I was going to believe it.
In itself, the cultivation and indoctrination of biz kid elitism is a strange phenomenon.
While admittedly I fell victim to this mode of thinking, it was some time before I realized how wrong it was.
Interestingly, I am not alone in this delayed realization.
Today, one does not have to look beyond declining business school enrolments, statements from U.S. President Barack Obama and the recent musings of author Malcolm Gladwell to witness stories of a new enlightenment.
On an episode of Jay Leno last year in the midst of the global financial crisis, Obama said, “Instead of a smart kid coming out of school … wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide if they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher.”
Further, the president expressed his wish for students to pursue “things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better – that’s going to put our economy on solid footing.”
Undoubtedly, this new line of thinking should lead universities to re-evaluate their priorities.
While flashy business programs are magnets for corporate funds, the benefits of more traditional arts programs should not be overlooked.
At the same time, however, students of these undervalued disciplines must step up to the plate.
In order for serious change to take shape, arts students must actively question what happened to the status of their liberal arts education.
When did calculator classes become more intellectually stimulating than those that promote logical reasoning, critique and debate?
Strangely enough, it was only after becoming a BBA student that I came to see these skills as less valuable than I had realized.
While healthy competition is one thing, a faculty-to-faculty rivalry is not particularly productive.
On the whole, perhaps everyone could benefit from a little interdisciplinary work and a broader perspective of their field of study and of education itself.
Today, the arts, and the skills associated with this faculty, are more crucial than ever before.
As a society, we seem to have grown comfortable with the way that we conduct ourselves.
We are accustomed to accepting dubious theories and political rhetoric as fact, rather than questioning our misgivings.
If the recent economic crisis has taught us anything, it is that we mustn’t travel too quickly along a path without questioning where it is going.
How many reflected on the economic foundations, historical parallels and business ethics underpinning the economy prior to the crisis?
Clearly, those who critically question, peruse and unpack modern society are not those merely concerned with maximizing profit.
In light of this, the arts degree is not as defunct as our business department might lead young students to believe.
Sorry, but this arts major won’t be delivering your pizza.