Oh, the Humanities!

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on March 3, 2014

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

Fox Butterfield, ¿Es Usted? 
“Venezuela is now the world champion of inflation, homicide, insecurity, and shortages of essential goods–from milk for children to insulin for diabetics and all kinds of indispensable products. All this despite having the greatest oil reserves in the world and a government with absolute control of all state institutions and levers of power.”–Moisés Naim, TheAtlantic.com, Feb. 25

News of the Tautological 
“Sixth Annual Walled Lake Ice Fishing Derby Draws Fishermen”–headline, SpinalColumnOnline.com, Feb. 26

Bottom Stories of the Day 
“Brown Seeks Fourth Term as Governor of California”–headline, New York Times, Feb. 28

image1330Oh, the Humanities! 
In part of a series of “the state of humanities at Cornell”–that’s the Ivy League university in upstate New York–the Cornell Sun looks at students’ increasing propensity to sign up for “practical” minors. An example is Maris Hansen, a member of the class of 2016, who’s majoring in government and minoring in business, international relations and law and society:

“The business aspect came in after long, long discussions with my mother,” Hansen said. “My family agrees that I should study something I truly care about and am passionate about, but they wanted me to also do something practical and employable–something I could fall back on.”

The story cites another example:

Prof. Abby Cohn, the director of undergraduate studies for linguistics, said while the number of majors in her department has stayed fairly constant at about 15 students, they are increasingly adding computer science as a second major.

“That’s one of the areas right out of undergrad where there are a lot of opportunities available,” she said.

Computer science and linguistics are actually complementary fields of study, since both deal in the logic and structure of languages. But anyway, Cohn doesn’t approve of this trend:

Cohn added that there is a concern among professors in the College of Arts and Sciences that more students are adding majors and minors that seem useful, rather thatn [sic] focusing on subjects they are truly passionate about.

“Often, students will have one major that is the thing they love,” she said. “The other one is something someone in their family thinks is a good, practical thing to do.”

We’re not sure what Cohn is complaining about. Notwithstanding their practical pursuits, at least these students have something to fall forward on.

(Note: the last post is from the Feb. 26 BOTW archives.) For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”