Friday, May 19, 2006

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.

15 comments:

Sanpete said...

Why does he want to be a lawyer? Most legal practice is drudgery. And much of the part that isn't is hypercompetitive and often ugly.

Watch out for your daughter. It seems to me a lot of washouts from the sciences end up in philosophy. It's sort of like science, but without all those pesky empirical facts to interfere with a theory.

H. E. said...

No chance of that--because I will not pay for a degree in philosophy or any humanities discipline or any other area that doesn't provide a solid technical training and employment credential.

I don't know why #2 Son wants to be a lawyer--in fact he doesn't particularly want. He just isn't very interested in anything academic but wants to make money. This puts me in a bind: if he's really headed to law school he shouldn't be majoring in econ or any area that's challenging. Any undergraduate major will do for law school so he should be majoring in the easiest possible subject in order to get the highest possible GPA.

If I stick to my guns and enforce my policy on majors, I screw him over for law school. If I let him off the hook then Daughter will demand, in fairness, to be let off the hook--and probably major in art history, which she really likes. Now there's a moral dilemma. The trouble is that being female, Daughter has no viable fallback position; Son, by contrast, is a strapping lad and can work construction if all else fails.

Sanpete said...

Your son's LSAT scores are likely to influence his entry to law school more than his grades in an easy major (which is unlikely to prepare him well for law school or the LSAT). They say the best undergrad majors for prelaw are Philosophy and English, with all that textual analysis. Philosophy also has the advantage of introducing some ideas that are important in law.

Art History. I see a connection to your take on Mill. If she really has a passion for it, and is very bright, it may be a good choice for her. There are jobs in every major, of course, but some are more competitive than others. And, in truth, there are viable fallbacks for women of moderate intelligence and initiative.

My parents were concerned about my questioning of religion, so they would only pay for me to go to BYU. Where I became an atheist.

H. E. said...

Your son's LSAT scores are likely to influence his entry to law school more than his grades in an easy major (which is unlikely to prepare him well for law school or

That's good to know (I take it you're a lawyer). Philosophy majors do best on the LSATs but correlation doesn't mean causation. I don't believe that any non-technical humanities or social sciences major prepares one for law school, a job, or anything else--other than blogging. Performance in these areas just signals reasonable intelligence and willingness to work.

And, in truth, there are viable fallbacks for women of moderate intelligence and initiative.

If you call school teaching viable. I DON'T.

My parents were concerned about my questioning of religion, so they would only pay for me to go to BYU. Where I became an atheist.

Point taken. It's tough to be a parent! And it's tough to be a kid.

Sanpete said...

No, not a lawyer, just know lawyers and have taken some interest in their issues. The LSAT is like an athletic event, and doesn't merely measure innate aptitude--training makes a big difference. It requires a developed facility for quick logic and analysis of texts that is improved by some majors more than others. There are books and websites all about this, if you or he want to check it out.

Many teachers will be surprised to learn that their profession isn't viable (some may not). But I wasn't thinking of teaching in particular.

Anonymous said...

Economics is a humanity.

Anonymous said...

h.e. - I can tell from you're obnoxiously involved attitude towards your childrens' lives and education that you are one of those overbearing parents who live vicariously through their children because she can't live with the fact that she didn't get anywhere in life. To you I say, it is not your life to live. You've lived yours and evidently made some mistakes. GET OVER IT. Leave your poor children alone before you make them any more neurotic than I'm sure you've already made them. Let them develop through their own ideas... they'll figure out what's best for them. When you're dead and gone it really won't matter what you think they should've done because they will be the ones living their lives and at the end of the day you won't matter. That's right... you don't matter. Breath it in, soak it up, and swallow it. YOU DON'T MATTER. So shut up, sit down, and enjoy your children for who they are and what they want to be... don't try to make up for your own mistakes. And if you get your ass up in the air and decide you don't want to pay for an education in a discipline they feel they will like, I hope you haven't obliterated all of their courage over the years so that they can stand on their own two feet and finance their educations themselves.

H. E. said...

BS, anonymous--I've been the most hands-off of parents. Once they were old enough to figure out that they shouldn't stick their fingers into electrical outlets, at about 4, my kids did what they wanted, ate what they pleased, went to bed when they felt like it, rode their bikes all over town, and lived their own lives. I have no idea where they went, what they did or who their friends were because I don't believe any of this was my business.

As I told them, your job as a kid is school and your only obligation is to pull GPA. I don't care about your personal lives or character, how you dress, how often you shower or brush your teeth, who you hang out with or how you spend your time, whether you drink, use drugs or screw around--so long as you get those grades and the credentials you need for a non-menial job and financial security.

You don't go to college to have fun (though that's a nice perk) or for cultural enrichment--you go to college to get job skills, qualifications and your upper middle class credential. That's what I'm buying for my kids. I'm not going to pay for anything else.

Anonymous said...

wow! I don't think I should even credit that with a response but I am having trouble resisting. Basically, you're saying that your children could be horrible people but as long as they were educated and worked towards an "upper middle class" status, any sort of behavior would be warranted. Hahah that is probably one of the most ludicrous things that I have ever heard. You really need to visit a specialist in psycho-analysis. I mean, I knew there were some obnoxious yet stupid and crazy people out there, but I can't say that I'd ever met one until I came across this little blog. Well, I guess one learns something new every day right?? (This is where you say: "Right, as long as it's not anything character-building or socially correct... it has to be something that is going to earn you some money one day.")

One word: shallow!

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