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Is the BS in business, just BS? A discussion in the NY Times.

The real problem highlighted here is that college is the new high school. Compared to my late father in law who studied and revelled in Shakespeare and serious European and American history and literature in high school, today college is the best chance for young minds to be educated and develope intellectual curiosity. Thus the business major, like the more intensive science and engineering major receive more or less trade school educations in college. To most the idea of business school sets a strong career path in their head, look at helpful online resources for exploring business school and MBA programs if you have a rigid career path planned ahead for yourself.

As the Brits say of American education, our colleges are a great place to get a high school education…

Business majors, esp the accounting ones, were among the worst in my history classes. Unwilling to attempt to learn the rudiments of critical thinking, they gained nothing from brief exposure to the liberal arts part of the curriculum. And the resistance to learning in favor of credentialing is not entirely limited to Business majors. It is a widespread affliction carried into the university from high schools.

(My) three smartest Co-workers at the large financial firm that I work at are 1. History of Religious Conflict 2. Physics 3. Classics majors. As always its the caliber of the individual that stands out in business, and so slacker kids studying in the slacker major is no wonder in seeing these sorts of results in terms of unemployment.

The guilty certainly include America’s taxpayers, who elected politicians who were more interested in paying off political supporters than assuring quality education, and the teacher’s unions who were more interested in progressive politics and benefits than assuring America’s children were competitive in a global economy.

…entrepreneurs and the like .. are much more likely to be schooling dropouts or outside the box thinkers where schooling actually inhibits this highly productive individual. As far as I can tell, the b-school certificate just gives you a license to steal and a rubber stamp that you can’t think for yourself.

…we are finally realizing that most degrees in higher education are not worth the paper they are printed on. Those from diploma mills just don’t cut it. Politicians must stop invoking education as a mantra, as a solution for all economic & vocational ills of our society.

(on team projects, by student at major B school) … instructors are constantly pandering to us about how “awesome’ we are, especially after viewing the mediocre work that arises out of our teams. Also the instructor are absent often from class due to their ‘other’ jobs, jumping on planes to go off somewhere to give talks, to consult, and in general, to make a ‘buck’ somewhere else.

Colleges and Universities ..tuition costs have been going up at twice the rate of inflation for decades. Why would anyone believe that they could teach anything about how to run a business. Many, however, are pretty good at managing their football programs and would prefer to hire $4 million dollar a year football coaches rather than manage tuition charge. Take the $55,000 per year tuition cost times 4 or 5, buy a few books and open your own business.

more from comment threads on the NY Times:

According to national surveys, (businesses) want to hire 22-year-olds who can write coherently, think creatively and analyze quantitative data, and they’re perfectly happy to hire English or biology majors. Most Ivy League universities and elite liberal arts colleges, in fact, don’t even offer undergraduate business majors….” I’ve had young graduates with undergraduate business degrees work for me. Many lack critical thinking skills. They can’t solve a problem if it hasn’t already been taught to them.

B school is … trade school where one learns to make a living but not a life…it …. becomes a “practical” path to economic advancement for the working and middle classes while the wealthy elite will continue to educate the minds of their young with liberal arts Bachelors programs….an educational caste system is thus in effect…with perilous results for the society which produces business functionaries without the reflective critical thinking skills to speak truth to power.

The MBA’s have been given leadership roles beyond their expertise…….. They have been taught to manipulate, hide , and deceive, instead of how to make and sell widgets. The Land , Labor and Capital means of creating society’s wealth has been replaced by Financial hocus pocus. Derivatives, hedge trading, and free cash are now the products being produced by these so called business leaders.

I was a business major at a school that is not highly ranked, and I must say it is great to see how the close-minded and emotional NY Times readers who studied English, Poetry, and Latin reacted to that piece. ….I would no more lump all business majors in together than I would all English majors as people who will never get jobs, or all psych majors as those who simply can’t handle real work. These are false claims, as is the endless stream of complaints that all business majors are lazy and soulless anti-intellectuals who can’t write, think, or contribute to society or academia.

This is a major often viewed as an easy ticket to a job. …When the experience of widening the mind and getting a liberal education is not a high priority — or is even derided in our sometimes anti-intellectual/pro-Housewives-of-New-Jersey and American Idol society — then why be surprised that the job-ticket majors result in low critical thinking skills?

College majors that require a high-degree of academic preparation, especially the reading-writing intensive fields and the majors that literally enforce high preparation, such as nursing and engineering, have something to teach the administrators of the business major!

When I completed my MBA in the early 1980’s at the University of Arizona, the credential required two years of rigorous full-time study. …Skip to the present day and this same credential often signifies nothing more than one’s ability to pay (or get one’s employer to pay) for a degree of dubious value…. Don’t want to be troubled with actually attending a class in person? No problem — you can do your whole program online (which provides an opportunity for the semi-literate among the enrollees to let someone else write their papers.

There is little concern that elite schools are producing incompetent graduates. The issue at hand is nature and quality of business curriculums in general,

Education and business are majors for athletes who are not academically inclined, and are the default majors for people who fail at other, more demanding, majors. This is not news.

As one who graduated with a BS in Industrial Management (’61) and an MBA (’73) ….I can attest to the author’s premise. A business degree from the average university is little more than a job ticket, and job applicants lack competence in basic mathematical and writing skills necessary for success in competitive industries.

One useful approach at the undergraduate level is to construct Business as a second major only. This way students are still encouraged to receive a well-rounded general education and develop critical thinking skills in a discipline while afforded the opportunity to explore the relevance of their interests in a business framework.

When I was an Engineerring student at CCNY circa 1959 if a person flunked a math or physics course they were given the option to go to Baruch,,the business school.

the business majors could always be found playing cards in the Student Union, while we were doing labs and working our tails off.

My son received a business degree from a “highly rated” university program and graduated with honors. He didn’t read great books, he didn’t write anything, and he still has trouble managing his own finances, which include student loan debts. He seems incapable of critical thinking about any subject. Our other children, who went to much less vaunted colleges, learned far more while they were there. His college experience was a colossal waste of his money, our money and the taxpayer’s money. …. Even a 4-year cross-country road trip would most certainly have resulted in more actual learning.

Lots of aimless students major in business because they don’t know what they want to do with their lives or their education. Parents often support this decision because they just want their kids to find stable employment somewhere. Most people work at businesses, so why not major in business?The problem with this line of thinking is that it creates a catch-all major filled with directionless and unmotivated students who like to party more than they like to study.

And instead of giving them truly challenging course work (something that would cause many of them to fail dramatically), schools cater to their laziness and collect their money…. a generation of college students haven’t read many books, … don’t know anything about history. They don’t understand science. .. Even if they do find jobs, their lack of a serious education contributes to the dumbing down of American society.

The only course that might trouble one was the math requirement -basic statistics. Those taught in the department were largely warmed over social science courses which were indifferently taught. …Those (faculty) who did care to teach well found students resistant to the idea of learning anything other than “templates” to apply to various business situations.

In the absence of changes in the character of U.S. higher education, one would expect many more future college graduates to be living back at home with their parents.

…times are not so good right now and that once the labor market really starts to improve (we all hope) that many of these people will find full-time work and move out of their parents’ homes.

I’m in a position to see a great variety of graduate and post graduate work. It is absolutely substandard as to what I had to compete against. It is increasingly hard to find anyone who can write let alone work hard or have skills.

This dumbing down … is illustrated in the fact that more people are getting an ‘education’ today than in the past in much higher numbers.

When younger people ask me about getting an undergraduate degree in business, I tell them it’s like trying to get into real estate by studying plumbing. The skills are critical for success, but there are lots of failed projects with excellent pipes. The most important skill set is being able to see the problem and/or opportunity, the solution, communicate it to individuals and groups and most critically implement it with energy and competence. …. Accounting, marketing, and operations are specific, critical skill sets which are easy to learn and widely available for hire.

(ed. IRONY) B school students are stupid …. They only study things such as statistical analysis, computer applications, accounting with its precision, industrial psychology, the Money and Banking system (a snap) and finance and investing (transparent,) and Business Law (everybody already knows all about that stuff.) When I went to B school, I only dabbled in art, music appreciation, history (including a History of Great Britain) and English literature. Obviously just dilettante stuff.When I took my graduate entrance exam (and it just happened to be at Princeton) I was completely daunted and overwhelmed by the fact that MIT grads, Ivy leaguers with perhaps pre-law and Harvard B school educations, science majors and who knows what would leave me at the bottom of the scoring list. Guess what? I came out on top! With my “mediocre” education, I did better than over 98 percent of the people taking the test.Almost every one goes into business, even doctors and, these days, college professors running grant funded research. Wouldn’t it make sense to know what your career in your post graduate life was all about?

(As) a graduate student at NYU’s Steinhardt School. I am suffering through the over use of team projects, which has become a substitute or any real content learning as mentioned in this article. The projects always seem to be only loosely related to the course and suffer dramatically from the doers and no-doers syndrome. In essence the instructors delegate student accountability responsibilities to student peers and there are no prescribed mechanisms or incentives to handle the fact that half of a student project team usually produces nothing.

Business ethics, law, corporate+personal tax, financial markets, financial instruments, investments, music, philosophy, history, micro+macroecomics, biology, world religion, negotiation+bargaining, public policy, social justice, pubic speaking..these are just some of the more memorable and useful academic pursuits I took while doing my undergrad in “business”. I made the dean’s list while taking six upper level business classes (one more than a full plate), and during that term I certainly spent just as much time studying than any bio-chem or other student I knew. After that I taught review courses for the GMAT for princeton review (while working 60+hrs a week at a consulting company) and came up 2 points shy on the Mensa test the same year (without preparing). So as stated in my name…you get what you put into things. Sure you could take 3 easy classes a term and skate by, just like in any discipline. The thing that you should really be writing about is why friends that went to state universities spent more time playing video games and drinking than going to classes and studying.

Liberal arts and humanities majors tout their training in critical thinking, but this is a fraudulent claim. There is debating for debating’s sake ad nauseum day in and day out, which is what the liberal arts and humanities majors call learning. They do not seek answers and they disdain answers. What they seek instead is the pleasure of debating itself. ….grow up.