In William Major’s essay calling for the abolition of business schools in favor of the humanities, he supports his argument by using business terms. He insists that the business schools and societal obsession with the capitalist market are the reason why humanities programs are under siege. He uses the capitalist argument to suggest that business school professors are doing the same work at humanities professors but they are being paid sometimes thirty percent more. He says that the market argument does not support these disparities, concluding that there is a difference in university attitudes toward the two departments. He goes on to suggest that there may be a moral imperative to abolish business schools because they are a hot bed for greed and corruption which negatively affects society in general. Major believes that once we close the business schools the humanities can take back the academy and all will be right with the world.
While I understand many of the points that Major makes in this essay, I disagree with his general premise. I think the humanists spend too much time justifying their existence. As humanist a simple philosophy we have all learned is the danger of justify one’s humanity to other people. Entering into such conversations actually calls said humanity into question and it is a losing argument. I believe the same rule applies to these articles, essays, blog posts, etc. that cry out about the good of the humanities while decrying the ills of the other departments that seem to have more capitalist relevance. Our focus should be on being the best humanists we can and the rest will fall into place. The university still upholds a core curriculum because we all recognize the importance of reading and writing to professional/life success. Therefore, we cannot afford to get so worked up just because a few people who likely cannot read and write to save their lives said something mean. As humanists, we are uniquely capable of reading human nature and understanding that sometimes those that can’t do, yell and threaten to withdraw funding. But is getting down in the mud with the “close-it, defund it” crowd the answer? I doubt it.
I respect STEM and I love business school. Without business school, my husband would not have gotten a job that largely keeps the lights on while I write this post. Major suggests that as a humanist I am supposed be above worrying about money or comfort, that somehow the hierarchy of needs does not apply to me. Well, perhaps, its less important to me, but its not because I am a noble humanist. It because I have accepted that fact that my talents for reading and writing earn a certain amount no matter if I am in or out of the academy, and that’s ok. If I (or Major for that matter) tried my hand at investment banking the recession may have been worse. Likewise, if my husband tried to write a critical summary and plan an in-depth discussion of key themes, he would likely fail at that too. What I mean is that we are all good at different things.
Finally I think Major is not taking in account what we can learn from the business school people. Despite his moral argument about the evil bankers, I think that we can use some of the same tools that business schools teach their students that humanities do not . We can teach our students the fine art of self-marketing, networking, and competition. Perhaps then we will not feel this inferiority complex or the need to attack other parts of the academy.