Obama takes a dig at the humanities

by Grace

President Obama jokes that you can BS your way through humanities courses.

And the thing about the humanities was, you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science, right?”

However, there may be a huge grain of truth in the president’s joke.  That’s why it was funny, or maybe not so funny.

The problem with a liberal arts degree is that ‘rigor has weakened’

… the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market….

The problem is employers have found liberal arts graduates ‘didn’t learn much in school’.

… Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read.

You can “kind of talk your way through” many classes, but not usually STEM classes.

In contrast to liberal arts studies, many STEM and similar vocational majors that focus on teaching specific content have not watered down their curriculum.

Related:  “The growing distinction between ‘meaningful’ and ‘worthless” college degrees” (Cost of College)


“Obama Derides Humanities Majors”, Washington Free Beacon, June 10, 2014 .


5 Comments to “Obama takes a dig at the humanities”

  1. It isn’t just that it is easy to talk your way into a good grade in humanities courses. I also find that professors in the humanities have a fundamentally different outlook towards students. Quite honestly, they are far more concerned about the happiness of the students, which sounds like a good thing, but it also leads them to make excuses for students. You hear a lot more of comments like “You have to meet them where they are” and “we must educate the whole person” from humanities professors. IN STEM, we are just as likely to consider the expectations of employers and graduate schools. In my field, if students don’t know particular concepts, they won’t get jobs or get accepted to grad school. So I have to keep that in my mind when I design courses and grade students.


  2. Interesting. Humanities professors are more “caring”. But STEM professors cannot afford to be so caring about their students because of well-defined standards that employers have established. Makes sense.


  3. It is a broad generalization of course… And I do see myself as caring about the students. I care that they get good jobs or get into the grad school of their choice 🙂


  4. There is certainly more grade inflation in the humanities than in the sciences and engineering, and there may be more socializing with students also. In my upper-division engineering courses, I see my job as providing students with “difficult success”. I’m not interested in weeding-out students, but I want them to really stretch themselves beyond what they think they are capable of. I try to reward perseverance and correctness, by allowing (often requiring) students to redo work that they have done incorrectly.


  5. Don’t get me wrong, I support the way you all describe how STEM professors “care” for their students. The other way, which I’ve observed plenty in K-12, promotes a version of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.


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