Skip to comments.High-tech and Humanity: 'English Majors Are What We're Looking For'
Posted on 07/26/2013 10:40:44 AM PDT by Kaslin
Economic anxiety defines the Detroit bankruptcy, and not just in Michigan and the Midwest. Detroit is the urban nightmare, symbolic of America's downward cultural spiral since the 1960s, when optimism about what Americans could accomplish was the national elixir.
The automobile was the national icon: powerful, beautiful and reliable. Detroit's advertising slogans reflected America's immeasurable self-confidence. Cadillac boasted that it was "the standard of the world." Buick promised that "when better cars are built, Buick will build them." Packard, then Detroit's ultimate expression of luxury, smugly advised, "Ask the man who owns one."
The car was the example of infinite American possibility. Americans had just returned from winning two wars, one beyond the Atlantic and the other in the Pacific, and we were liberated to think we could do anything -- in business, engineering, medicine, the law or whatever else struck our fancy. We were free to explore the possibilities of the mind. There was the saying that the first-generation American had gone into business so his son could be a doctor and his grandson could be a professor.
The returning American soldier, getting a college education on the G.I. Bill as the happy alternative to the war he had just won, could look at his reality in a fresh way. Many measured themselves by their ability to make money; others exhilarated in how prosperity freed them to "rise above" money matters to study philosophy and literature. But all that was a long time ago.
The pessimism of the present day affects the way we think about the future in narrower ways. A half-century ago, 14 percent of college students studied the humanities, the reflection of the great ideas that liberated an imagination grounded in what Matthew Arnold, the 19th-century English poet and critic, described as "the best that has been thought and said in the world."
Aristotle said mastering metaphors was a sign of genius. That may have been exaggeration from the man who espoused the golden mean, but the ancient philosopher understood that poetry had its practical virtues (even if his colleague Plato didn't include the poet in his ideal society).
Humanities majors sometimes were referred to as "eggheads," disdained by their more practical brothers and sisters, but mostly they were proud to carry on a tradition requiring that they read the great works from antiquity to modernity. Humanities majors are down now to 7 percent, and they are not exactly high status on campus.
In a digital age, no one much cares that the humanities major is an endangered species. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in a report titled "The Heart of the Matter," makes the case that, like the natural sciences, the humanities feed "mental empowerment." True enough, but the report ignores important reasons why young men and women ignore a humanities major today. Tenured professors smother the beauty and truth of the ancients with arcane jargon, trading the wisdom from the forest for the weeds of multicultural and politically correct revisionism.
That's too bad. Without the passion that stirs the soul with great writing, it's easy to overlook the riches of a liberal arts education. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, he noted that Apple's DNA was not made up of technology alone. "It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing," he said.
Jobs was not alone in recognizing that the high-tech employers seek innovators who employ imagination, metaphor and storytelling, all growing from the rediscovery of great works of literature. Michael Malone, author and teacher, tells of inviting a Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneur to talk to his college writing class. When he told his visitor to go easy on the downside of life for an English major in a tech-savvy world, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur replied: "English majors are exactly the people I'm looking for." The battleground, writes Malone in The Wall Street Journal, has shifted from engineering to storytelling as the means of translating an idea into imagined reality. The study of fine writing and the arts opens the mind to a larger nature, to quality measured not by big data, but by big ideas.
"At a time when economic anxiety is driving the public toward a narrow concept of education focused on short-term payoffs," observes the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, "it is imperative that colleges, universities and their supporters make a clear and convincing case for the value of liberal arts education." That's a hard sell to engineers, economists and politicians watching Detroit slide down the tubes, but there's merit in it. You should channel Steve Jobs.
System documentation is just like blueprints for a construction project like a house or commercial building. The foundation crew, the framing crew, the plumbers, the electricians, drywall, painting, roofing crews; and more; all are following the same blueprints, even if modifications have to be made to the plans during the project.
A software system thrown together without a similar structured project process; without the project documentation created during each phase; without cooperative effort between the various teams and members, without following a cohesive plan and design, is just a tangle of counter-productive trash.
This kind of mindless garbage is why the USA is in a major depression; and is why outsourcing, off-shoring, and bringing in foreign visa workers by the tens of millions, is even a consideration.
I AM one of the geeks. I just happen to have a Bachelor of ARTS degree to my name. My boss ribs me something terrible when I over-write my RCAs and lessons learned, but he appreciates that he can hand them to his superiors and they’ll be accepted without question.
That makes Sri a vary valuable person, and compensated accordingly, no?
I've had two jobs outsourced out from under me. Both times, neither company was all that concerned about documentation. "We need to document this, WBill, but first, you need to fix these 57 other things. Do the docs in your spare time." .....then, all of a sudden, documentation percolated up to the top of the list. Always. "Make two afternoons a week available to do nothing else", and so on.
First time I had it to happen, I said "great", since I don't particularly mind documenting, and I didn't realize what was going on. Second time, I spent lots of afternoons self-documenting on my resume and cover letters. :-)
And here I thought I was the only POSH-head on FR!
I’d always tell people complaining of my documentation, “Of course its hard to read, the code was hard to write.” But that was back in the days of packing assembly code into 64K blocks.
I have that on my coffee mug.
I knew an old electrician who worked in a steel mill here in Pittsburgh. The only documentation for anything in that mill was in his head. In fact he used to memorize blueprints of stuff done before he got the job then he’d burn them.
“Job Security” to the unionized mind.
He’d also help himself to any company property he wanted as an unwritten part of the contract. And he’d come over and rig your cable box to steal HBO for twenty-five bucks.
I’m not good at it, but I use it every day. I wasn’t very good at C in college either, but I struggled through it.
The term, cognitive disconnect, applies to the condition where reality and one's understanding or perception of reality differ.
If a company has American jack-leg coders who cannot (or refuse) to communicate, document, design, and work cooperatively as part of a functioning team, why the heck would they ever hire another illiterate, counter-productive American over a foreign coder who will at least try to read, write, and speak English, and work as part of a team.
I pretty much work out of a PS console and the ISE most of the time. Never had much formal training, but I’ve managed well enough to make a respectable showing that the Scriting Games the last couple of years. I’m an AD/Exchange admin, but I’ve been getting more and more programmers coming to my cube for help with Powershell and regex.
We use Quest Active Roles Server here (I’m an AD engineer), and the AD management plugins are really awesome compared to just the ActiveDirectory import module for PS. I spend most of my days scripting in PowerGUI to automate processes in ARS.
Good to know there are FReepers out there doing the same stuff.
“Good code is its own best documentation.”
Good code to a certain point is good documentation however, since every programmer has his own style, it is good manners to comment your logic and why you built it that way. Otherwise you are just a rent-seeking punk looking to make yourself indespensible ans the master of black-box spaghetti code. Just saying.
And then there was code documentation. The engineers programming the company’s products had standards to follow, and code reviews to attend. On the lower floor of the building, the IT engineers, mostly by the time I left Indians, immune to all layoffs, even more so than the few blacks who worked there, these guys didn’t have to do chit, and didn’t, not a single word of documentation in their Java and SQL code, and their (white) management didn’t care, resisted calls for standards, disdained talk of code reviews. I was in those respects lucky, working in IT but coding for Engineering, having to document my perl code, and going through code reviews with the Engineering group which also produced software for Engineering, a weird arrangement, having to do with competing personnel budgets and other such political nonsense.
Hated to see them lose Kirk Munro from the team at Quest. Has support and development suffered any for being acquired by Dell?
He probably had to take more history classes then barber classes
And bean abel two cummyunikate is kinder overrrrraited anyways, doncha think?
Rachel Jeantel has a better chance of getting into a law school (as she’s planning to do) obtaining her masters degree in English than in Rocket Engineering!
Are you series? Its a hugh deal.
LOL... I remember being told many years ago that properly written code was self documenting and did not need comments.
I occasionally cranked out some very elegant code, with comments, but when looking at it some years later I often wondered "what on earth was I thinking that day?" Everything makes great sense at the time, not so much after a year or two.
....How hard it is too major in English? When its youre fist language. Arts and cratfts magors is pointless.
How hard is it to major in English when it’s your first language? Arts and crafts majors are pointless.
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