For many years I kept a close look on the way in which academia, and in general the educational offers provided by various universities, have evolved. One thing that I noticed, which is not extremely surprising, is that fact that a new wave of non-traditional study programs made their way into quite a lot of universities. This is not by any means something that we should be worried about, but in the same time, we should not leave it to spread in a very chaotic manner.
The new wave of non-traditional study programs, and by non-traditional I am referring to certain research areas that constitute a niche, they don’t actually form a self-standing academic domain, or are somewhere at the crossroad of various domains. Another thing that they have in common is the fact that their “independence” from other fields, or fields that they were previously assimilated to, is correlated to a certain extent to the evolution of technology, of the internet, and a diversification of research journals that are mainly based on online platforms.
I think that it is truly wonderful that nowadays we have a greater selection of Bachelor’s and Master’s programs that we can choose from. But in the same time I have strong reasons to doubt the validity and pragmatism of certain study programs that promoted by certain universities.
The most fraudulent ones, which usually rank very poorly in terms of pragmatism and assimilation in to the job market of graduates are the cultural studies programs (American Studies, British Studies, Irish Studies etc). You may wonder what makes these programs to have such poor performances on the job market, there are a few basic ones:
- they are not correlated with a very well defined academic area;
- there are no job positions that can be accessed only by students that graduate these programs (ex. somebody that finishes with a degree in accounting can apply for an account position at a company);
- these programs are actually a mish-mash of courses extracted from different academic areas, but they lack a very solid core of their own;
- totally lacking a clear set of research methods that could actually validate their claims;
- you don’t actually need a degree in this, you can learn it for yourself, you can write books and articles on related topics with or without a degree in CS.
These programs focus on the study of different cultures, but in their research they usually tend to utilize sources that cannot be very reliable. You cannot expect to conduct a valid study of the lifestyle of the American farmers from the South only through analyzing various novels, letters or diaries that make references to this subject. This is mainly because novels, letters and diaries display a profoundly subjective point of view, of single individual, in most cases. Using almost exclusively sources like the ones that were just mentioned, the studies that are produced by CS departments hold no particular value to the study of culture in general.
Some of you don’t actually realize that the staff the works in CS departments was mainly collected from various Literature departments. So, by taking this into account, it is no surprise that many of the professors that hold CS courses are not very capable of analyzing cultural phenomena through the use of hard data, or more importantly, being objective. This leads us to the following point, the courses and research that are mastered by CS staff will present you only a puff-piece image of a particular culture, they will tend to over exaggerate the positive sides of a culture, while pushing under the rug the negative ones.
There are individuals that still try to connect CS with Anthropology, and that is a big No-No. First of all, anthropologists use a variety of reliable sources when conducting their studies, they heavily value the role of physical, biological, and material factors when analyzing various cultures, or cultural phenomena in general. Demographical data and the material remnants of a culture also hold take an important place in anthropological studies. Unlike CS, anthropology has deeper roots in academia, so it manage to set for itself a more coherent mechanism of self-regulation, thus minimizing, to some extent, research that is useless or that defies search ethics.
CS journals are a waste a paper filled with bombastic titles for articles that explain things that are very basic in their essence.
Another huge lie that CS programs are pushing is that of the trans-disciplinary outlook. We have numerous examples of inter-disciplinary programs that produce valuable research such medical engineering, bio-chemistry or video game design. CS is just not one of them. A thing that you need to keep in mind is that you can mix in mostly 2 area, that have a certain degree of compatibility, to form a study program, but when you mix in 6-7 area such is the case with CS programs, you just end up with getting a little bit of general knowledge from each, but you can’t become an expert in none.
And finally, many of these programs are more interested with spreading ideology that with building a critical framework for the analysis of a certain culture. They are determined to determine you to like a culture, rather than giving you the necessary knowledge that would let you figure that out for yourself.
Some CS programs receive funding from different entities linked to actual states, as a result, the curricula will be influenced by the need for a good image that many nations are desperate for, while leaving authentic academic values on a second, or third plan.
In order to end in an optimistic note, we should acknowledge that there are new study programs, that we may still find exotic, that have a huge potential in our current economy. We can include here video game design and programming programs, web design programs, cosmetic science and the list can go on.
If you truly want to study culture in a serious manner, go for a degree in Anthropology or Archeology!