Is Majoring in Liberal Arts a Mistake for Students?
Vinod Khosla
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While I am all for encouraging more kids to follow STEM fields, it cannot be at the expense of the liberal Arts, Fine arts and culture. These are the potential problems I see creeping up; While we do need to instill critical thinking in our kids, the danger of becoming very one dimensional should be avoided at all costs. I don’t see people actually pursuing literature or history as a part of graduate education or higher studies once they start earning (after their pre-professional under-graduate major). The case for multi-disciplinary studies should be made very strongly by the powers that be. English and History and Philosophy along with Computer Science, Genetics and other technical fields should be a mandatory part of the under-graduate experience.

These are my personal anecdotes / observations given my background (Indian immigrant in the Bay area) - most Indians I meet socially are graduates from the elite corps of IIT’s / BITS etc. who follow the well-trodden technical path. They are very successful and provide well for their families but are severely lacking in many areas that are key to becoming well rounded human beings. It’s all about filthy lucre.

All that mathematical modeling and analytical thinking does not seem to have helped the majority of this demographic progress towards other interests. Everything is very reductive - all activities are geared toward accumulating wealth, homes, cars and pushing their kids to compete to get into the most prestigious schools/awards under their belt. Their degrees are impressive, the people holding them - not so much!

These people will not venture out of their comfort zone. The comfort zone of social “climbeyness” that is. They hone in on residents of certain zip codes or schools or companies. There is, ultimately, just one path - the one that leads to money - all social contact is agenda based and transactional- are they wealthy enough with enough linked in /social connections to actually help me? It’s laughable really - how money does make for strange bedfellows. I see the oddest couples coming together, absolutely nothing in common and then it hits me smack in the face - the suave, sophisticated couple are latching on to the country mice - because, voila - uber nerd husband has managed to secure vast amounts of funding for his fledgling, possibly a pump and dump type start-up or maybe they are winners of the digital lottery. Yes, there are lots of those - happened to be at the right place at the right time and end up feeling like they are somehow better, definitely superior - all that easy stock option money conferring a sense of supreme entitlement.

I know a lot of these “successful people” who do not read past the headlines, let alone an essay or God forbid, a book! It is a dull, dreary landscape out there - most party chatter is about which company has had a successful IPO, high net worth, how to get hold of that latest Birkin, who has multiple investment/ vacation homes etc. And gassing about themselves on social media does not constitute good communication skills.

I think back to an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts unknown - Los Angeles - of David Choi - who made millions in FB stock by doing graffiti for them. Damn - he is an interesting guy! And Roy Choi - “Choi, a self-described bad Korean, an executive chef and Koreatown native, who owns several restaurants and a fleet of food trucks in LA.

Choi attributed his “bad” Korean-ness to the fact that he dropped out of law school. His parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer, Choi said, and in their culture it was far more respectable to be a mediocre accountant than a top chef.”

There are many ways to get to a good place, twisted, wayward paths that can lead to something beautiful - it would be ideal to impart a scientific, analytical base to our kids but at the same time, teach them to be human. To rejoice in being different, to broaden narrow visions, to look past the obvious markers of success, to learn empathy (yes, that can be taught by example) and to go forth and explore…

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