There was a time when I criticized students for what I assumed to be their fixation simply to get a job and make money. I'm not in this blog post talking about those types of criticisms. But I would like to state here that I now believe those criticisms were unwarranted and inappropriate.Here are my reasons:
One, I didn't know any given student's hidden heart and desires well enough to believe that they were simply looking to be yes-men and yes-women. Sometimes, to paraphrase Robert Frost, it's necessary to be practical-minded in one's youth so as to be artistically minded in one's older age.
Two, even if I had known, it's not clear to me that looking for skills to get a good paying job is a bad thing.
Three, I'm not really so different, even though I chose, from early on, to major in studies--History and French--that, I knew, by themselves were not obviously conducive to job prospects, a fact which was reinforced when I graduated, looked for a new job that wasn't food service related, and found so many requests in the classifieds (this was the mid-90s....people still read the papers then) for accounting majors. I wanted and value--and still want and value--the security that comes with having steady employment. I'm not necessarily all that different from my colleagues in grad school, either. Beginning in my masters program, I encountered that strange breed of person who had devoted themselves to living the life of the mind and who solemnly declared to me that they preferred that to "working for Bill Gates." Yet that didn't seem to stop them for working for the computer industry when there was a demand for their programming and web skills.
Fourth, now that I study business history--although I have always been interested in political history, I used to approach it more from a labor history angle and now I approach it more from a business history angle--I have a greater appreciation for the fields of business study and realize they command their own aptitudes and even have something approaching their own aesthetics that, in theory, I imagine to be comparable to those of the liberal arts and social sciences.
Update 8-7-10: In the paraphrase from Frost, I changed the word "use" to "youth" because I meant "youth" and not "use" and, in a more metaphysical sense, because I didn't proofread.