I spotted two stories in recent days that suggest sociology majors have no value. The first was at the Wall Street Journal and titled “Sociology and Other ‘Meathead’ Majors“:
In this happy season of college graduations, students and parents will probably not be reflecting on the poor choices those students made in selecting their courses and majors…Most colleges offer a cornucopia of choices, and most of the choices are bad.
The bad choices are more attractive because they are easy. Picking not quite at random, let’s take sociology. That great American democrat Archie Bunker used to call his son-in-law “Meathead” for his fatuous opinions, and Meathead was a graduate student in sociology. A graduate student in sociology is one who didn’t get his fill of jargonized wishful thinking as an undergraduate. Such a person will never fail to disappoint you. But sociology has close competitors in other social sciences (including mine, political science) and in the humanities…
Others try to imitate the sciences and call themselves “social scientists.” The best imitators of scientists are the economists. Among social scientists they rank highest in rigor, which means in mathematics. They also rank highest in boastful pretension, and you can lose more money listening to them than by trying to read books in sociology. Just as Gender Studies taints the whole university with its sexless fantasies, so economists infect their neighbors with the imitation science they peddle. (Game theorists, I’m talking about you.)
I am not quite sure what is going on here as Mansfield indicts a broad swath of disciplines, including implicating his own field of political science. Is he suggesting that the natural sciences are not “counterfeit majors” because they deal with facts? Should colleges be steering all students away from majors other than the natural sciences that are unwilling to make value judgments? Mansfield seems more interested in making inflammatory comments about other disciplines than in providing solutions to the problems of the modern university. And the affirmation of Archie Bunker’s views of his son-in-law seems strange considering Bunker’s conservative and inflammatory viewpoints.
The second putdown came in the opening to a piece about the spelling bee in the Washington Post:
The National Spelling Bee, now underway — or it it weigh? — is a hilarious concept. What better way to announce to the world at large that you have a totally useless and unmarketable skill — besides, I guess, framing your sociology degree? You’re a world-champion speller, eh? Do you also play the mountain dulcimer? That might have more practical applications in the workforce.
I’m guessing this is supposed to be facetious but still, it suggests a sociology degree is akin to having a “totally useless and unmarketable skill.”
Perhaps this is all part of the larger discussion about the value of college and getting a job but I suspect there will be many more opinions thrown out there about certain disciplines and sociology in particular. It looks like sociologists should continue to think about how to best describe the value of sociology for both our students and the broader world.