Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Things I Don't Get, #352,719

Via Unc comes a link to this post where some mocking is going on of a list of "Britain's most unconventional degrees".

For some reason, everybody is focusing on "Viking Studies" as the target of their derision. Me, I’m trying to figure out what’s so kooky about a specialized history degree. I mean “history” is a pretty broad major, and most folks do tend to focus on one period or culture. Considering the impact of the Viking era in England, I’d be kinda shocked if they didn’t have some strong programs covering it in their universities.

Betcha you can major in Plains Indian (or bison-following Casino-Owning American, as I believe is currently correct,) cultural studies at Nebraska. Granted, unless you plan to be a history teacher, a history degree of any type is not the most remunerative, but the world needs historians and archaeologists and history teachers just like it needs derivatives traders and assistant marketing managers and the third assistant headlight bezel engineer at Buick.

What concerns me more is that a British paper, specifically the "Torygraph", finds degrees in "Enterprise and Entrepreneurship" and "Estate Agency" (that's "Real Estate Sales" in English) to be as risible as bachelor's programs in "Adventure Media" and "Bon Jovi Studies".


AllenF said...

Actually, at NU it's called "Great Plains Studies" but the principle remains the same.

Anonymous said...

The guy that I had buy my beer freshman year was getting his Masters in "Mid-evil Flemmish Weaponry"

He also dressed like he worked at a renascence festival.

NotClauswitz said...

Especially considering that the Vikings inspired in the British a kind of deadly week-kneed backstabbing along with a rigorous display of traitorous inveigling and desertions seldom seen combined in Britain until the doltish wanderings of Neville Chamberlain and the deviousness of Kim Philby emerged in the 20th Century.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Having just knocked off a History Degree here in the States, there's a Problem for those who go for their Advanced Degrees. There's been so many Dissertations written for the Master's and the Doctoral Degrees, plus those Plagiarism Scandals that are around, that the number of "Open Subjects" that are available "to Advance the Scope of Human Knowledge" is rapidly dwindling. One of my Instructors wrote her Dissertation on (wait for it) "The Role of Women's Fashions in the Royal Court of 15 Century France and it's effects on the Political Structure!"

When I asked her WHY, she said, "So I could get my Doctorate and have a chance of getting a Good Job. Not that I really give a damn about 15 Century Women's Fashions, but this is what one has to do nowadays to teach at the University Level."

Yet, we graduate kids from High School who don't know who Nixon was and why he was important.

Welcome to New Dark Ages.

Zendo Deb said...

One of the goals of the 1920s communists was to affect education in the US in certain ways. One was to teach kids to be better cogs. Populations who can think for themselves don't make really good communists. Then if you know history, you are likely to be aware of things like how Hitler came to power, or how Napoleon came to power, or even how Caesar came to power in Rome. (There are examples all the back to our first Western History of what one of my professors call a "Daley-style" politician seizing control in Athens just before the War with Sparta.) But then if you knew how it happened in the past, you might know what to look for in the present.

Philosophy? It's useless right? I mean I don't need to be able to discuss Liberty or Equality, Freedom or even Beauty. What difference could these things have on my life? This is America, no one will try to take away my liberty! (Except maybe the TSA, or Obamacare, ...) But what would spending time learning about Liberty and how it was lost in the past and how it was won in the past have to do with life today? (I'm late for my flight, and I the line for the TSA pat-downs is very long!)

If you started today - with a whole new set of teachers - it would take 60 years or more, at least to undo the damage to education. Not just in this country, Britain is having the same problems.

But no one wants to start today. Everyone - not just the folks that started the downward spiral - believe that "education" should be vocational. History is boring (I guess you didn't like "300" or "Tora! Tora! Tora!" or "The Longest Day" or whatever. Though 300 was a bit over the top.) It's useless. Just teach me how to program the current version of Windows. Or is it Linux. Or Android. Or is Mac's operating system based on Berkley Unix? Whatever, teach me what is fabulous TODAY. because surely the technology that is all the rage TODAY will be unchanged in 15 years! And the only thing I want out of my college education is a job TODAY.

For some reason I feel like I am living in the "Fahrenheit 451" universe, where the enemy of all is the educated person.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, specialized history degrees--those work out so well for people.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

You kind of need to be able to produce something and support yourself, though. Studying esoteric things is certainly interesting and fun--I do it too--but what good will it do you if you can't feed yourself?


Rick C said...

Does anyone know what the fourth one was? It seems to have gone 404, although viking studies and enterpreneurialism are still there.

Tam said...


"Studying esoteric things is certainly interesting and fun--I do it too--"

To be perfectly technical, other people study history, and then you and I read about their studies. :)

AngelaG said...

I agree with you, but the site you linked to is Cpt Capitalism. The author despises all non-STEM related fields. It's why I stopped reading him.

T.Stahl said...

What? They didn't mention Sandhurst and studying "WAR"???

Drang said...

Some of the mdo sound like the proverbial "Underwater basketweaving": Hand Embroidery Studies, Football Studies...
Decision Science sounds like either a boondoggle or so high-order that you'll know in your junior year (or Brit equivalent) who you're going to work for--assuming anyone hires for it at all. I like the tagline there: "Only once qualified, however, will the student know whether taking the course was a good decision. "

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about the hit on "Bon Jovi Studies". I did take AC-DC in Electrical Engineering school.

Kristophr said...

The problem, as usual, is government subsidy of education, and government student loans.

If someone want's to work part time to pay far a History degree specializing in Vikings, I have no objection.

When a GSL program suckers some kid into indenturing himself for a degree that won't pay off the indenture, I start getting irritated.

SGB said...

The vikings taught me a lot...

mongo78 said...

"third assistant headlight bezel engineer"

Nice P.J. O'Rourke reference!

Phssthpok said...

And on a lighter note:



Larry said...

Now if it had been "Viking Kitten Studies", that would be silly.

Anonymous said...

"To be perfectly technical, other people study history, and then you and I read about their studies. :)"

As a History Double major I can attest of the need for that type of degree. The Vikings purged most of the Latin influence out of Britain. That alone should merit a field in and of itself. The Vikings were dominant in the wake of the Roman empire. I don't see the issue....

Jeff the Baptist said...

To be fair, our Native American studies professors include such luminaries as Ward Churchill.

Stretch said...

High school buddy LOVED Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & Gray Mouser. How much? He wanted to be a Roaring Skald. So he studied Ancient Norse Mythology and Sagas in Canada and Iceland. Wasn't until he landed a hot Icelandic wife and a job with the State Department that his parents would admit that he even WENT to college.

Anonymous said...

"What concerns me more is that a British paper, specifically the "Torygraph".

Ah, you seem to be labouring under a misapprehension!

The paper does, it's true, tend to follow the Conservatives agenda but, you see, their agenda is almost identical to Labour and the Liberals. We don't actually have any MSM that could even slightly be equated to 'middle of the road' let alone 'right-wing'.

As to the examples, I see them as no more than the results of the farcical Labour installed policy of aiming for 50% of school leavers to enter a degree course (since a degree used to require some academic ability this amazingly resulted in the further dumbing down of the degree prospectus, surprise, surprise), and of course the ever increasing specialisation in every area of life.

I don't have a problem with 'Viking Studies' or 'Estate Agency Studies' (Real Estate? - as opposed to Imaginary?), except that these 'specialisations' have no place in a first degree. If you wanted to study the Influence of Vikings in Britain you used to have to get a degree in History/Archeology and then maybe specialise at Masters. As to Estate Agency - no jobs in the sector, Hmm well that will be worth a lot then won't it? The issue is that, with top-up fees, students are finally realising the true worth of these 'academic boondoggles'.

I'll stick with Heinleins quote on this one! I'm no insect!

Josh Kruschke said...






I really don't care what esoteric/extra knowledge our you cram into their heads; as long as it is after they learn how to feed themselves and wipe their own asses.


Guffaw in AZ said...

How's about Harry Turtledove, PhD., professor of Byzantine History and fiction author?

Anonymous said...

"Granted, unless you plan to be a history teacher, a history degree of any type is not the most remunerative..."


Zendo Deb said...

Here is my contribution to everyone's Viking studies... by way of Iceland....

Heill dagr!
Heilir dags synir!
Heil nótt ok nift!
Óreiðum augum
lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr!
Heilir æsir!
Heilar ásynjur!
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold!
Mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum.

And no, I won't offer a translation, since plenty are available.