Kids!!!--he wants to be a lawyer!
#2 Son has just announced that he wants to be a lawyer! We are very upset. Law is one of those overcrowded professions for people who can't do math. To get a job in these professions you have to get straight A's and hustle because anyone can do it but most people can't do it well. By contrast our engineering majors can get decent jobs as juniors with C averages. With math, if you can do it at all you're set.
This lead to a surprising dinner table conversation. After 30+ years of marriage I discovered that my husband would have gone into a humanities discipline even if he could handle the math for a science. This seems insane--or maybe it's a male-female issue.
I loved science as a kid--such as we got of it. I watched Mr. Wizard faithfully and did all the messy experiments in my mother's kitchen. What I really liked in high school were the labs which, to me, were like gym class--recreation. I caught on immediately how to peek though a microscope with one eye and use the other to do the drawing--and my sketches of dissected frogs were magnificent. What I really loved though was chemistry because it was tidy and organized--the periodic table, the equations. All of my experiments came out perfectly--I never had to repeat them or fudge. I still remember my lab partner's gratitude. I cried when I packed in the bunsen burner and flasks at the end of the year, knowing that I'd never do any science class again.
Truly, I don't believe that women go for humanities disciplines because they prefer them--I believe they go for them because, like me, they assume that they can't handle the math. That's why I went for philosophy--the most analytical and, in an extended sense, most scientific of humanities fields. I also like to fight so to that extent I can understand the appeal of law. I can certainly understand wanting to be a litigator on the Rumpole model--but not corporate law or scholarship.
Now I'm old, and I've lost my interest in science. When I read Scientific American on the plane to conferences I never read the physics article. I look at the splendid color pictures, and then read the econ article. Because of the way that my professional life has gone that's what interests me. I like the tidiness. Maybe that's why I like teaching logic so much. Still, when it comes to it I'm the perfect gut level philosopher because what I like to do and do best is to analyze, organize and fight.
But oh these kids, my kids. What do we do? My idea is simple: go for a math-intensive area--math, hard sciences, engineering or econ. That's what matters. Humanities disciplines, including philosophy, are like sports and other extra-curricular activities. They're good things, but they're luxuries--not what education should be about. So what do I say to my daughter, majoring in biology who doesn't much like it? It's tough and time consuming to get a science degree but if you don't you're pretty well worthless, out on the job market with all those other literati, just another woman applying for secretarial jobs.