Most faculty members have heard cynical parents making arguments like, “My kid should go for a straight business degree. I am not paying for this fun stuff, like history. He needs a job to pay off all these loans! Besides, unlike majors such as engineering, computer science, and business, most college degrees are useless, for jobless blowhards. Right?”
In response, I offer the following story.
While studying in Germany, an American legal history graduate student took freelance jobs on the support staffs of various businesses to pay the bills. One day, he put in a bid for an assignment for a pretty big client and was invited to give his sales pitch. The company’s European head of research and development, a German, interviewed him. The discussion began with basic courtesies and talk about what the company needed; there was little discussion about the American’s academic background. About five minutes into the interview, the German pointed to a reproduction of a painting on the wall behind his desk and asked the American, “Who painted that?” The American replied, “Matisse, I think.” The German responded, “Good! Now, what are your thoughts on the Marshall Plan?”
And so the discussion went, for about 10 more minutes, after which time the American interjected: “Excuse me, sir, but why are you asking me all of these history questions?” Read more…