Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Business of College Kids Is Business!

When the New York Times wants to highlight a trend, it will highlight a trend. This morning we receive word in at least three different articles that perhaps the children won't be flocking into business as they did during those booming 2000s.
For the highest-paid fields, the outlooks is for a tempering correction instead of an all-out exodus. At Harvard, for example, about 40 percent of undergraduates in recent years went into the most lucrative corporate arenas like finance and consulting, based on surveys at the school year’s end.
In Frank Rich's column, it's
In the bubble decade, making money as an end in itself boomed as a calling among students at elite universities like Harvard, siphoning off gifted undergraduates who might otherwise have been scientists, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, artists or inventors. The Harvard Crimson reported that in the class of 2007, 58 percent of the men and 43 percent of the women entering the work force took jobs in the finance and consulting industries. The figures were similar everywhere, from Duke to the University of Pennsylvania. Dan Rather, on his HDNet television program in December, reported that at Penn this was even true of “over half the students who graduated with engineering degrees — not a field commonly associated with Wall Street.
But alas, tis nothing new. In the 1890s, forty percent (the same number mentioned in the first Times article about today's numbers) of Harvard graduates went in business. One might be appalled and shocked by this high percentage, proclaiming that the university is not to train men in the pecuniary arts, as Thorstein Veblen argued in The Higher Learning in America. Indeed, it would be hard not applaud this development. Going into community organizing really is a more noble vocation.
But such moralizing may be misplaced. I think it was Harvard's longtime president Charles W. Eliot who, commenting on the propensity of his students to go into business, got it right:
For some reasons one could wish that the University did not offer the same contrast between the rich man's mode of life and the poor man's that the outer world offers; but it does.... In this respect, as in many others, the University is an epitome of the modern world.
As Eliot suggests, it shouldn't come as a surprise when these trends reverse themselves if/when the economy improves.
[NB: Statistic and Eliot quotation taken from Kim Townsend's Manhood at Harvard (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1996), 25.]

4 Comments:

Blogger The Sheriff said...

So then what do these trends mean downstream? Let's say that the oikonomea turns over in 5 years, once all of these would-be "community organizers" (surely this demonstrates that everyone can grow up to be President) have just about graduated. On the one hand, they have harvard degrees so they can get just about any job in business they'd like with or without the specified degree. On the other hand though assuming they don't 'jump the shark', what will these experiences or this education do, can it buck the trends that the university seems to merely follow?

10:38 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

I think it will be significant "downstream," as you say. The article quotes a statistic that 2/3 of Teach for American folks end up staying in teaching/education, and I'm sure it will be similar for community organizers. The trouble is that one might surmise that the "good/democratic" habits picked up by these people will only counterbalance the "greedy/bad" habits picked up by the business folks. The question, in other words, is if there will be a net gain.

10:55 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Fair enough. Time will tell. Speaking of time, I heard today the phrase "what killed the charter school movement" and I hadn't realized it passed. maybe you could write us an Obit. for the blog?

1:27 AM  
Blogger Robot said...

Charter schools are dead. Long live charter schools! Considering they have the support of the POTUS I thought they were just coming alive.

8:23 PM  

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