During my undergraduate years, one subject captured my heart: sociology. My dad felt differently. Like the good Indian engineer father he is, he insisted that I study “something practical.” My solution? I worked my behind off for a double major in sociology and economics. Most importantly for 19-year-old me, it satisfied the man with the checkbook. But it also gave me a set of skills—from market analysis to multicultural awareness—that I have used again and again in my career helping colleges around the world. Dad, you were right all along!
Someone else who knows a thing or two about Indian dads (being himself a Mumbai native and a father) is the writer Fareed Zakaria. In his book In Defense of a Liberal Education, Zakaria shows how a similar “do something practical” attitude, taken to extremes, has translated into a movement to rid U.S. colleges of allegedly “useless” liberal arts subject—like sociology—in favor of those seen as teaching more work-ready skills, like computer science.
The good news is that this is a false dichotomy. The more challenging news is that colleges urgently need to do a better job incorporating both types of teaching into their curricula.