False Narratives

Now, do you think somebody going to college, borrowing whatever it is in this case, $20,000 a year to get a degree in Classical Studies ought to be told by somebody at a school that it’s a worthless degree?

I don’t take joy in mentioning Rush Limbaugh’s name in a serious light, but given that this sentiment is relatively common what’s a passive pundit to do? The rest of his rant is typical of those that disdain liberal arts education, as echoed by recent comments from Florida Governor Rick Scott. 

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

I read a decent comeback over at FrumForum from Miranda Frum. She graciously provides some insight for Mr. Limbaugh:

Classics is a branch of the humanities that examines language, literature, philosophy, history, art, culture, and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean world. You know, the Greeks. The Romans. The guys who the Founding Fathers were crazy about. 

That last part struck with me. Reading about the educational backgrounds of the Founder’s sheds light on the importance of a liberal arts education. A lot of them were lawyers in practice, but in the deliberations (especially in the beginning) they depended on their understanding of Western political history, Classical philosophy and theory. It strikes me that these traits learned in contemporary colleges are equally as useful for people who won’t go on to write important documents. Yet some choose to only see their value as it relates to those who agree with them politically or ideologically. Ms. Frum is correct to point out that students in these fields are painfully aware of the marketable job limitations as it relates to their majors. Yet the narrative in our public schools, and common wisdom, has taught my generation that receiving a college education is important because employers are increasingly looking for BA(S) next to applicant names, regardless of the actual degree. People associated with OWS are rightfully upset that this narrative may not be as true as we were told. Telling my generation to “go home get a job and a life” is not a constructive response.