That said, however, there is strong evidence that at least among some college students, liberal arts are desired.
I refer to today's (June 15, 2011) column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times. He cites world wide excitement for the classes (now available on line at www.JusticeHarvard.org) of Michael J. Sandel of Harvard. He is a teacher of political philosophy. People in the US, China and elsewhere, line up hours in advance to attend his lectures. Friedman goes on to say, "Sandel’s recent book — “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” — has sold more than a million copies in East Asia alone. This is a book about moral philosophy, folks!"
What is going on here? In Asia, at least, Friedman quotes enthusiasts who say Sandel's excursion into humanities and critical thinking offers antedotes to mechanistic, rote, technical learning. He cites these reasons for the course's popularity:
"One is the growth of online education, where students anywhere now can gain access to the best professors from everywhere. Another is the craving in Asia for a more creative, discussion-based style of teaching in order to produce more creative, innovative students. And the last is the hunger of young people to engage in moral reasoning and debates, rather than having their education confined to the dry technical aspects of economics, business or engineering."
Friedman concludes the article by quoting Sandel:
“Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues. “In recent years, seemingly technical economic questions have crowded out questions of justice and the common good. I think there is a growing sense, in many societies, that G.D.P. and market values do not by themselves produce happiness, or a good society."
I guess what bothers me is that this notion expresses a minority opinion, at least as reflected in the actual decisions so-called "educators" (or panderers) make in terms of educational priorities and material resources.
Anyway, it is synchronicity at its best when such confirmation arrives so soon after venturing a thought.