The message being imparted in “Starving The Beast”, the recently released documentary examining what is alleged to be a shift in direction among some American public higher education institutions seems to boil down to this:
Humanities, liberal arts and other so-called “soft subject” disciplines of study=Good.
Core curriculum courses like math, science and English, often referred to as “hard subjects”=Bad.
At least in regard to a reported reduction in funding for the former versus the hike in financial support for the latter. Granted, this is certainly simplifying what appears to ultimately be the driving point being dispatched by “Beast” writer and director Steve Mims. But having watched his film, I honestly don’t believe it is all that far from the general thrust here.
I don’t know that there are too many among us in this country who aren’t fully aware of the at once concerning and discouraging fact that the rest of the industrialized world’s young people are flat-out kicking our kid’s asses when it comes to global standards of measurement regarding proficiency in both science and math (not to mention technology). This is to most Americans alarmingly unacceptable. At least I would surely hope it is at any rate. And it has unequivocally got to change. Now. Shit. Yesterday.
This does not mean that a well-rounded education is not highly preferable for the future leaders and shapers of our country. The important components of a well-rounded scholarly experience provided by the humanities remain integral in any civilized society. And yet to expect that these pursuits be endowed with the same level of cash-infusion and emphasis as those departments which are educating and preparing college graduates to get a substantial job and eventually help support a family is not entirely reasonable in a modern world, either. Those academic options outside of a core subject program, lo, degree requirements, will continue to be available to students. And it is exceedingly difficult to imagine that the myriad of universities and colleges throughout the nation which are expressly devoted to liberal arts educations are going anywhere anytime soon.
However, there is a reason that marketers of higher education in the US have begun using the term “value proposition” when they are imploring the virtues of earning a degree from their esteemed institution. It’s called making yourself eminently and immediately employable as opposed to living in the basement of your folk’s home while you steam somebody’s espresso at Starbucks for a paying gig. While a noble craft to be sure, it is likely not what you went to school for to wind up doing with your life on a long-term basis.
I have a liberal arts degree. And I am damn proud to have earned it, too. Hell, my eldest son is majoring in Accounting and is tearing it up in his second year at a top-notch state university. And he just got full course hour credit for taking “The History of Rock and Roll” for crissakes. They didn’t even have that when I was a college lad. And had they I’m tellin’ you right now that I woulda taken it every damn semester!
The point being that, while I fully understand the concerns presented and explored by Mims in his thought-provoking film (chief among them that we can not forget or ignore history. And who would argue?), by the same token I am also not inspired to embrace the notion that it’s reached the level of all-out panic time quite yet.
Perhaps all of us will feel one whole helluva lot better when America is leaving the rest of the planet behind to eat it’s dust as we surge past all comers with our explosively prodigious science and math acumen.
And all the while still being abundantly capable of holding our own should the topic at hand turn to 17th-century French literature, buddy.
- Cinematography - 5/105/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 6/106/10
- Setting/Theme - 6/106/10