Deep Furrows had a post a while back about the advantages of a general education in the context of Great Books programs. Now as in the 20s, there's still a great deal of differing opinion as to whether a broad, humanities education is a good preparation for professional life, or just for asking "would you like fries with that" in ancient languages. (Believe me, I got this a lot as a Classics major.)
The other day I had an opposite experience, one that I'm still not used to. After seeing someone with a strong resume full of IT work flounder on taking over some reporting projects that I'd put together, someone commented to me: "It really is hard finding someone with your technical background."
"I don't have a technical background," I pointed out. "I've never taken a class in database work, I just picked all this up on the fly."
I'd say this ought to be the sort of thing that puts the "education is a matter of training, and training in the proper field is essential to performance in the professional realm" meme to rest, but honestly, I do know a lot of poeple with similar humanities backgrounds who don't seem to pick up technical skills with nearly the same facility. (Though I will say, of that of the small number of other people I know with college or graduate level Classics experience, all of them can program -- mostly better than I can. Perhaps learning Greek and Latin sharpens the same skills that you use in programming and database work.)
No matter how much one may understand the concept mentally, it's hard for me as a modern American to think in terms of people not all being created equal.
Certainly, it seems to me that a general education such as provided by a great books curriculum or one of the fields in the 'humanities' (assuming that science and math are not excessively neglected) ought to teach a student enough about human nature (while providing enough experience in learning new subjects rapidly) to allow the student to do well in nearly anything. Yet it doesn't always.
As a humanities partisan, I tend to notice when people with technical degree backgrounds get stuck in the "must learn it first" mentality where, until they have a new process spoon fed to them and demonstrated in some sort of class or training session, innovation and figuring things out intuitively seems impossible. And yet (though they seldom tend to make it into the professional circles where I find myself these days) I every-so-often run into people from back in our college days who seem to have come out of a humanities education with the same benighted mentality, and a much less marketable set of skills than an unimaginative Computer Science or Marketing major.
Perhaps at root it's more a matter of the limitations of the person than the virtues of the academic field.
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