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Episode 130: What’s the Point of College, or, Why There Should Be No Business Majors on Campus


Today’s guest, Johann Neem, has recently written an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Abolish the Business Major”. Here’s a taste:

The business major is for students who want a college degree without a college education. The philosopher Tal Brewer has written that the very notion of business school is an “oxymoron.” The word “scholar” derives from the Greek word for leisure. Colleges are places where people step aside from the world of need — from the world of business — to engage in reflection. “Devoted to discussion and thought unfolding under its own internal demands,” a college cannot with integrity offer “training for the sort of life that has no place for such thought.” Business schooling is “a scholé of the negation of scholé.”

This essay was excerpted from Johann Neem’s new book, What’s the Point of College?: Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform. It is a provocative collection of short punchy essays, written from the standpoint of a historian, but ranging across the entire terrain of the modern university.  I think that it forms a nice trilogy with previous conversations we’ve had this year with David Staley and Chris Gallagher—and I should note that all of three of these books have been published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

Johann Neem is Professor of History at Western Washington University. His most recent book was Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, and you can listen to us discuss that book in Episode 112.