Friday, May 12, 2006

Business Smarts

A student goes to nursery school, to pre-K, to kindergarten. He or she goes on through the elementary grades, into middle school, and then into high school, the launching pad of adulthood. This person can then go on to college, be it a good, middling, or fraudulent one. Our student may then go on to earn some advanced degree--that's what it often takes to earn a decent living in one of the professions or academic disciplines anymore. The B.A. or B.S. is only a ticket stub for grad work. The student may finally exit the formal education path in his or her late twenties or early thirties, having invested prodigious amounts of time, money, and grey matter into learning what's important in life.

And it is entirely possible that the only thing our student learned--or had an occasion to learn--about the business world in all that time is Willie Loman collapsing in his squirrel wheel and getting chucked into the ashcan. Nothing else! Sometimes I think that explains where certain segments of the electorate come from.

A random thought, provoked by listening to an audio production of Death of a Salesman during my commute these past few days.


  1. You've overstating the case rather badly.

    If the student is heading for an academic career, then yes, they'll need a Ph.D., and may never encounter the business world. There's nothing particularly wrong with that (unless you're prepared to be equally upset that businessmen never really experience academic research). Similarly, medical doctors won't experience the corporate world outside of medicine for quite some time.

    Professionals, though, will almost certainly have completed summer internships at corporations as undergraduates. Their professional degree is likely to be a two-year degree (MA, MS, or law school), again with internships over the summers. They'll emerge in their mid-twenties, already with a fair amout of job experience.

    I could just as easily turn this around: Most Americans never see higher education as anything other than a job ticket and a haven for a few professors with eccentric political views. Because of that, they don't really understand what higher education is,which tends to warp debates over colleges and universities.

    Thus you have the railing about tenure, without the understanding of why it's necessary. Thus you have the complaints about professors "only working six hours a week," as though they were on vacation when not actually lecturing. Thus you have the unrecognizably bizarre way that professors are generally protrayed in fiction.

  2. It sounds like that would be good grist for a blog post. Quite a few conservatives think that academic types routinely roll out the red carpet for radical-chic killers and terrorists, like Mumia and the Yale Talibanist, while calling out riot police and imposing ridiculous strictures on talks by visiting conservatives. Why not have at it, seeing as you've got a ringside seat?

    Or, if you already did such a post, how about a link?

  3. That's a terrific idea. I'll write a post up once the end-of-semester mayhem ends.


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