How to scare humanities majors

Remember “Scared Straight,” that late-1970s documentary in which prison inmates warned juvenile delinquents against turning to a life of crime?

Watch Buzzfeed’s take for the college crowd: “Scared Straight: Liberal Arts Edition.”

You can guess what happens: Down-and-out college grads with arts and humanities degrees get in the faces of a crop of liberal-arts students, yelling at them about the poverty, debt and underemployment they’ll be facing if they don’t turn back.

Sure, it’s parody. It pokes fun at the hyperbole in today’s debate over the usefulness of an education in the humanities and arts.

It has been written up in USA Today, which also references an essay this week by Concordia College (Moorhead) President William Craft.

He jumps in to provide some reassurance — and a change in perspective.

In The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Craft writes that recent jibes by U.S. politicians belittling humanities degrees are way off:

“… These statements are built on a falsehood: The record shows that college grads who have majored in the fine arts, the humanities and the human sciences do well. The study just completed by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and the Association of American Colleges and Universities – based on U.S. Census data – reveals that while students with such majors usually make less initially than those from programs directly linked to one profession, by the time they reach their peak earning years, they have on average surpassed them.”

He adds:

“… There is another problem here, and one that worries me as a college president: the assumption that the major is destiny. For some students, a major can lead straight to a job. But for most, the major serves chiefly to develop discipline – the capacity to look hard at a set of problems and persist in trying to solve them.”

You can read the USA Today article here and Craft’s commentary here.

(Note: I believe research ultimately indicated that tactics such as those in “Scared Straight” don’t actually work. So I guess Starbucks has nothing to fear.)