John Stuart Mill once said, “Among the facts of the universe to be accounted for, it may be said, is mind,” and according to a recent article published by the New York Times, more college students are finding this to be the case.
I was recently looking through a number of articles online when I came across a three-page article on the New York Times Web site that explored a renewed interest in philosophy as an undergraduate degree among students. At first I thought it strange that the newspaper would devote three whole pages to the movement, but as I read the article, the reasons began to make more sense to me.
The article sited Rutgers as one of many universities where the tract in philosophy is growing more popular among undergraduate students. More colleges are offering philosophy to undergraduates nationwide than a decade ago, and some schools with already-established departments are seeing twice as many philosophy students than in the 1990s. One professor at the University of Delaware said the department at his school was actually turning students away because the demand was too large.
Students from all different walks of life are devoting themselves to philosophy, many opting to graduate a year late rather than pursue their previous degrees. This makes sense to me, especially when you consider how specialized our secondary educational system has become these days.
It seems as the world becomes increasingly complex because of advances in science and technology, the job market is becoming more specialized. As a result, many of the students interviewed in the article seemed to express an interest in getting back to the basics. One student at Rutgers switched from a major in pharmacy medicine to philosophy. The chancellor of the City University of New York said in the New York Times article that if he were to do it all over again, he would major in philosophy rather than mathematics and statistics.
“I think that the subject is really at the core of everything we do,” he said in the article. “If you study humanities or political systems or sciences in general, philosophy is really the mother ship from which all of these disciplines grow.”
It makes sense that students are drifting back to the basics, rather than specializing in some degree that they may never actually use in their career because the working world is becoming more and more diversified.
According to Careers in Transition, the average American will have three to five different careers in his or her lifetime. I think students are also trying to find a way to define their lives as thinkers and not just as machines used to crunch numbers and sell merchandise.
I know that my own experience here at TCU has shown that many students find their current majors boring and unimaginative compared to what the world seems to be offering in terms of careers. The working world simply isn’t the same today as it was even a decade ago. As Heraclitus would say, “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”
Andrew Young is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Overland Park, Kan.