Classicists Rule!!!

A couple of items of interest which coincidentaly passed under my caerulean gaze this week … first, one of the Discover Magazine blogs confirmed (based on GRE matters) what we all know (but which appears to be a surprise to some): Classicists are Smart! … inter alia:

I looked at the average verbal and mathematical score for each discipline. Then I converted them to standard deviation units away from the mean. This is useful because there’s an unfortunate compression and inflation on the mathematical scores. Disciplines which are stronger in math are going to have a greater average because the math averages are higher all around. You can see that I divided the chart into quadrants. There are no great surprises. People who want to pursue a doctorate in physical education are in the bottom left quadrant. Sorry. As in my previous post physicists, economists, and philosophers do rather well. But there were some surprises at the more detailed scale. Historians of science, and those graduate students who wish to pursue classics or classical languages are very bright. Budding historians of science have a relatively balanced intellectual profile, and the strongest writing scores of any group except for philosophers. I think I know why: many of these individuals have a science background, but later became interested in history. They are by nature relatively broad generalists. I have no idea why people drawn to traditionally classical fields are bright, but I wonder if it is because these are not “sexy” domains, to the point where you have to have a proactive interest in the intellectual enterprise.

… one really has to read the whole thing to get the full effect. One of the comments (by ClassicsPhD) pretty much says what most of us are probably thinking:

As a Classics PhD (Berkeley; BAs in Philosophy and Classics) and professor of Classics, the only thing I find surprising—or rather, we’re chuckling at it here at the dept.—in the article above is the author’s apparent surprise at the overarching intelligence of Classicists.

A few observations:

Classical Languages should be in the plural; no one studies but one in grad school. Although we generally specialize, as researchers, in one or the other (i.e., Latin or Greek), both languages are studied and examined equally in grad school (as are, of course, the modern scholarly languages required).

I am unclear on the differentiation between “Classics” and “Classical Language (sic)” here; there are no PhD programs that allow one to earn an advanced degree in “Classics” without the Classical languages (there are “Classical Studies” BAs that may require only two years in one of the languages, but such degrees do not lead to graduate study). I suspect that this may have something to do with the ways in which reporting depts. identify themselves, but I am not at all sure.

Emil: “I am surprised to see classicists up there… [though] I have never spoken with one.” Indeed.

While I was still basking in the overinflated self esteem that would come from reading such findings, I was also heartened to read the incipit of this item in USA Today:

A liberal arts education can provide a leg up in a down economy, a survey suggests.

Recent college graduates who as seniors scored highest on a standardized test to measure how well they think, reason and write — skills most associated with a liberal arts education — were far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest, says the survey, released Wednesday by the Social Science Research Council, an independent organization.

It found that students who had mastered the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively by their senior year were:

•Three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn’t (3.1% vs. 9.6%).

•Half as likely to be living with their parents (18% vs. 35%).

•Far less likely to have amassed credit card debt (37% vs. 51%).

Grades and other factors influence a student’s chances of success, too. Graduates of colleges with tougher admissions standards tended to have fewer debts and were less likely to live with their parents, the study found.

A report this month by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which studies the labor-market value of college degrees, found that recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree in architecture had the highest average jobless rate (13.9%, vs. 8.9% for all recent college graduates). Education and health care majors had some of the lowest jobless rates.

The findings released Wednesday “show something new and different,” says lead author Richard Arum, a New York University professor. “Students would do well to appreciate the extent to which their development of general skills, not just majors and institution attended, is related to successful adult transitions.”

… you can read the full report at the SSRC site. Of course, engineers come out on top, as often, but while Classics is not specified specifically (I do that sort of word pairing a lot lately), the claims of unemployability of humanities types seems to be largely discredited by this study … perhaps this study can be thrown in the face of those ‘restructuralist’ university presidents who think we should only think of the employment potential of subjects when deciding whether to axe a department …

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