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In an article titled The Default Major: Skating Through B-School, the New York Times describes the shoddiness of most business majors, and then quotes Henry Mintzberg of McGill University.

[A] dogged critic of traditional business programs, [Mintzberg] … says it is a “travesty” to offer vocational fields like finance or marketing to 18-year-olds.

The story goes on to note that “Most Ivy League universities and elite liberal arts colleges, in fact, don’t even offer undergraduate business majors.”


Yet, as Louis Menand points out, “The No. 1 major in America is, in fact, business.”

… [S]tudents majoring in liberal-arts fields — sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities — do better on [a college learning assessment exam], and show greater improvement, than students majoring in non-liberal-arts fields such as business, education and social work, communications, engineering and computer science, and health. There are a number of explanations. Liberal-arts students are more likely to take courses with substantial amounts of reading and writing; they are more likely to attend selective colleges, and institutional selectivity correlates positively with learning; and they are better prepared academically for college, which makes them more likely to improve. The students who score the lowest and improve the least are the business majors.

Sixty per cent of American college students are not liberal-arts majors, though… Twenty-two per cent of bachelor’s degrees are awarded in [business]. Ten per cent are awarded in education, seven per cent in the health professions. More than twice as many degrees are given out every year in parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies as in philosophy and religion. Since 1970, the more higher education has expanded, the more the liberal-arts sector has shrunk in proportion to the whole.

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2 Responses to “The business of America is business.”

  1. DM Says:

    I differ about the computer science part. There is a wide variety in the curricula of computer science degrees, which explains why some universities make a difference between computer science and computer engineering. The former studies the basics of computation (e.g. algorithmics, queuing theory, logic, etc.), often with heavy mathematical content, while the latter studies how to build systems, sometimes with a very business-focused view.

    There is no reason why “theoretical” computer science majors should differ from those in fields such as physics and mathematics.

  2. University Diaries » Plagairism? It’ll cost you. Says:

    […] discovered that a bunch of his undergraduate business majors (background on that burnished major here and here) has plagiarized, and he called them on it. After announcing his intention to report the […]

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