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There's a lot of validity to what you are saying. I was thinking
specifically of a recent Italian survey. It demonstrated that while
science and engineering graduates do earn more right out of university,
a few years down the road, salaries balance out. I would suppose that
the lower salaries of teachers of humanities would be balanced out by
the lower salaries of those teaching engineering and science.
Regarding world changing ideas, I agree that many of the "great
thinkers" were (often for worse) reacting or responding to the
prevailing ethos (which implies that they had an intimate understanding
of the prevailing ethos). But I wasn't thinking so much about the great
thinkers themselves. I was thinking about how the ideas I mentioned have
worked their way into the minds of every person on the planet, you and
me, and effect the planet profoundly. "Artsy-scholarship" affects each
of our lives profoundly every day. However, many people don't realize
that the ideas they hold most deeply, that seem so obvious and
intuitive, are the result of artsy-scholarship. I am reminded of a
conversation with a coworker who claimed to be an atheist. He once said
to me, "I believe that the truth will set me free." I asked him why he
thought that. He said it was "self evident." He had no clue that the
idea has a 2,000 year pedigree. It comes to us through the Catholic
Church from John's Gospel (John 8:32). So here we have an "atheist"
whose deepest values are informed by Christianity. Those ideas affect
every life-forming decision he makes. Those ideas affect him at least as
much as all of the artifacts that enable his survival.
The person educated in the humanities ideally understands the history of
ideas. He understands the warrant for his values and where his values
come from. The person educated in engineering and science may understand
the history of just his own discipline. If he has an understanding of
the history of ideas, he has gotten it on his own. This is analogous to
the distinction that can be made between professional and amateur
writers. Professional writers ideally understand their rhetorical
decisions, why they are saying what they are saying in the way they are
From: techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of Gene Kim-Eng
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2008 7:00 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit
Well, the world can be a very myopic place.
While the individuals responsible for the social phenomenon
you describe certainly had great impacts upon society, most
of them were not exactly highly valued or respected during
their lifetimes (and in the case of some of them, it is arguable
that they shouldn't have been afterwards as well). And most
of them made their impacts rebelling against, rather than
applying what they studied during their education years.
As far as salary is concerned, I recall during my college
years an analysis that revealed that bachelor degrees in
engineering returned the highest income per year spent in
schooling of any field of study, and I've not seen anything
since to contradict that. It isn't so much that the degrees
are valued more than degrees in humanities as it is what
the people holding them are doing. I can think of no other
reason why a wet-behind-the-ears engineering graduate
rates a much larger salary than a new teacher, who begins
making an impact on students the moment he or she sets
foot in a classroom.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
>I think his view on this issue is myopic.
>While the impact of science and engineering on the world is enormous,
>both wonderful and monstrous, the impact of the ideas developed and
>propagated by "artsy-scholarship" (i.e., humanities) is far more
>profound. Warrant? Two words: Communist Manifesto. If that isn't
>how about Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Materialism, German Idealism,
>Darwinism, Nazism, Socialism, Laissez-faire, and Capitalism? And we
>mustn't forget, "Those who forget history are destined to repeat it".
>On a social level, before science and engineering can truly help us to
>live better lives, we need humanities to tell us what "better" is. On a
>personal level, "the unexamined life is not worth living"; science and
>engineering have nothing to say to the three most profound questions in
>the heart of every person: "Who am I?", "Why am I here?", and "Where am
>If salary is any indication of respect, I think it is safe to say that
>the business world does not value or respect those educated in sciences
>and engineering more so than it does those educated in the humanities.
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