Paring back the social sciences in Japan, the fourth arrow of Abenomics?

by on September 17, 2015 at 12:04 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Law | Permalink

Here is the latest, I do not know the backstory but this seems to be of interest:

Many social sciences and humanities faculties in Japan are to close after universities were ordered to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.

Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the behest of Japan’s government.

It follows a letter from education minister Hakuban Shimomura sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.

The ministerial decree has been denounced by one university president as “anti-intellectual”, while the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, regarded as the country’s most prestigious, have said that they will not comply with the request.

However, 17 national universities will stop recruiting students to humanities and social science courses – including law and economics, according to a survey of university presidents by The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, which was reported by the blog Social Science Space.

The article is here, a petition to protest is here.  If you know more about this episode, please inform us in the comments, thanks.

1 John September 17, 2015 at 12:12 am

I saw this report earlier, with just the 26 numerator, and not the 60 denominator. It looks unfrightening to me given this new perspective. A practical studies tilt is not an abandonment.

2 Matt September 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

Law and economics not practical enough?

3 James Hartwick September 17, 2015 at 5:27 am

Frankly, in my opinion, no. When we are talking about practicality (on a societal level, not an individual level), I put law and economics in the same category as the arts: I am very glad that the top performers in law, economics, and the arts chose their fields because they do make the country a better place. But the vast majority of law, econ, and arts students should have studied something else.

4 dearieme September 17, 2015 at 7:23 am

“But the vast majority … should have studied something else.” What?

5 XVO September 17, 2015 at 7:58 am

STEM

6 FUBAR007 September 17, 2015 at 10:20 am

@XVO: “STEM”

The erroneous assumption you’re making is that those who want to major in humanities and social sciences possess the aptitudes and ability to succeed in STEM. Some probably do. The majority, probably not. The notion that the median Fine Arts or History major can become a successful Comp Sci or Mech E major is, to put it politely, naive.

The more realistic alternatives are the pseudo-vocational majors like Business Administration, Marketing, etc. That said, we crank out so many of those already, I don’t know that that’d necessarily be an improvement.

7 Cliff September 17, 2015 at 10:47 am

Welding

8 John September 17, 2015 at 10:50 am

First, even with this past week’s announcement we still massively undervalue apprenticeship paths.

Second, a good AA may get you into the job market better than a bad BA.

ROI is both about return and investment.

9 mesaman September 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

Carpentry, plumbing, auto mechanics, financing, professional sports agents training; in all those practices that produce the greatest margin of profit for the least amount of investment. It’s not about principle, it’s about money.

10 scout September 17, 2015 at 10:33 pm

FUBAR007:

It’s not a lack of aptitude, it’s an attitude problem

11 FUBAR007 September 18, 2015 at 10:16 am

@scout: “It’s not a lack of aptitude, it’s an attitude problem”

Ah, yes. The fallacy that anyone can learn anything, master any subject or trade if they simply apply themselves enough.

Human aptitudes are not fungible. The overwhelming majority of people are not polymaths. I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t a software engineer, electrician, or data scientist inside every Art History major just waiting to break out.

People who gravitate toward the humanities and non-quantitative social sciences tend to be right-brained, more abstract than concrete in their thinking, and/or higher in verbal intelligence than in quantitative reasoning. I suspect SAT/ACT test scores bear that out and, to take it a step further, that there are likely correlations to specific MBTI personality types.

12 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

Don’t we want voters, entrepreneurs, workers, etc. to understand various ideas of how things work in the world?

13 Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:16 am

Do they need a four year degree in a single narrow field?

14 John September 17, 2015 at 9:57 am

I believe many more political science majors graduate, than enter law schools, let alone enter law firms. Like many majors in the US system it is more a hook and a dream than a solid career path.

15 Alain September 17, 2015 at 12:16 am

I don’t see any reason why the populace should subsidize students who study lifestyle disciplines. If those students want to attend private universities, more power to them.

I do feel a pang of sadness at economics being included with the rest of the social sciences, but you have to break some eggs to make an omelet.

16 Matt September 17, 2015 at 1:03 am

Leaving aside the defence of the humanities that I’m inclined to make, do you see law as a lifestyle discipline? Presumably having people who are well-educated about the law is a public good?

17 er September 17, 2015 at 1:07 am

presumably having laws simple enough that anyone could understand them would be a public good. I don’t think you are suggesting we should have more complicated laws and then make a more sophisticated education system to educate a few people about it.

18 Matt September 17, 2015 at 1:10 am

I’m not convinced that any sufficiently large society can have laws that are simply enough that anyone can understand them while also having a relatively just system of laws. Certainly no such society currently exists, so if the Japanese create one they will be in uncharted territory.

19 Ricardo September 17, 2015 at 2:13 am

An example of a simple law would be “police can do whatever they see fit to investigate crime, conduct searches and arrest people who they think are guilty.” Yet most people want constraints on police power without those constraints being so onerous that they allow criminals free reign. So we wind up balancing interests and that sometimes makes the law more complicated.

So, no, having “simple enough” laws is not necessarily superior. Law can be somewhat complicated because we want to do things like punish the guilty while protecting the innocent and, more generally, balance other sorts of competing interests.

20 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 5:17 am

That would be an example of a simple law, but it is not a realistic example as no one is suggesting the police ought to be able to do what they like.

A better example would be “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Perfectly simple. And yet a great deal of jurisprudence has gone into explaining exactly why this does not mean what the clear meaning of the words at their face value means. America has very complicated laws side stepping this so that if you are driving to Vegas with $5000 on your person, the police can take it without bothering with a trial.

Another example would be that one giving Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. A simple reading is obviously not enough and instead we need the Olympics of special pleading to bring a farmer standing in his own field of corn, conspicuously not selling it, under this clause. America did fine with the simple reading. America would do fine with the simple reading again. The only people who do well out of the complex hair splitting legalism that has taken its place are lawyers, lobbyists and Congressmen. All who live off the graft it gives them.

Another example would be “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Whereas what America has is a massive effort to explain precisely why the Federal government has the right to declare on things like abortion and Gay marriage. A simple law would suit America fine. But all the Very Serious People have no time for that. They need a complex law.

You have not remotely made the case against simple laws.

21 John L. September 17, 2015 at 7:00 am

“why the Federal government has the right to declare on things like abortion and Gay marriage.”
Or slavery or Civil Rights. Ha ha ha.
“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
What is just compensation?

22 Brian September 17, 2015 at 8:20 am

Subtlety inadvertently makes an excellent case for why we need good law schools. Much of law is about logic, like “showing three examples of good simple laws does not imply that all laws can be simple” or “showing how complicating some simple laws has made things worse does not mean that all jurisprudence that requires me to think more than 5 seconds is wrong”

I suppose you don’t need a law degree to figure that out.

23 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 8:56 am

I would never trust police to “do whatever they see fit”.

a) fear fear fear. What if the Nazis, etc.

b) they are often not well trained and so make a lot of mistakes. Laws to constrain their arbitrary use of state power prevent cases of abuse.

c) While probably most police officers want to do best, i) there are truly some bad apples and we can’t let them “do whatever they see fit” and ii) just because an officer “is sure he’s got the right man” doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have to leave a papertrail (get a warrant) BEFORE exercising his potentially arbitrary use of state power.

d) fear fear fear. (strongly connected to point (a) What if red police get hitlists of blues, and blue police get hitlists of reds. We need strong powers to constrain the ability of police to exercise their powers without significant legal and institutional oversight.

Of course, the police need to be able to do their jobs. Lots of people are doing a fantastic job of advocating for ever-expanding police authority, so there is no need to concern oneself excessively with the other side of the argument.

24 Axa September 17, 2015 at 7:07 am

It’s not a binary question. One useful statistic to track the level of medical attention in a population is “Physicians per 1,000 inhabitants”. There may a be an optimal level of Physicians per 1K people and perhaps this level is still not attained anywhere in the world.

Why don’t we pose the question in terms of lawyers, artists, etc per 1K inhabitants?

25 Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:22 am

Where would you put someone with a degree in Psychology working at Starbucks?

26 John September 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

Somewhere I heard that the Hot Topic clothing chain only hires college graduates as sales assistants, because they can. A surplus of soft majors provide aaconvenientc signal for “more diligent than high school.”

27 Mark Thorson September 17, 2015 at 1:05 am

Yeah, we got to empty out some offices to make room for the new Department of Sexbotics.

28 Shaun September 17, 2015 at 1:24 am

Alain, history, political science, and sociology (among other humanities) aren’t lifestyle disciplines when taught and researched well. They are about understanding the world (in the same way physics, chemistry and economics are), the people in it, and how our societies function. All pretty vital stuff.

29 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 3:16 am

when taught and researched well.

Which is to say never. None of these subjects has been taught well anywhere outside, perhaps, Oxford for three generations. Nor has the research been remotely competent since the Baby Boomer radicals took over. Now it consists of wishful thinking, bitterness that someone else is in power and warmed up political opinions masquerading as facts.

They are about understanding the world (in the same way physics, chemistry and economics are), the people in it, and how our societies function. All pretty vital stuff.

That is the PR line. In reality they rarely even come in contact with the real world any more and have precisely no ability to convey any understanding about the real world whatsoever. They are obsessed with race, gender and Imperialism in ways that simply do not have any corresponding connection with reality.

Abolishing them across the West could only be a step forward.

30 Ricardo September 17, 2015 at 3:47 am

What, exactly, is your qualification to judge the quality of teaching and research in three different disciplines at every university in the entire world? Even by the standards of blowhard internet commentary, this is ridiculous.

31 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 3:57 am

My qualifications are irrelevant. I notice that you did not object to Shaun’s equally unsupported and even more blowhard claims. Why is that?

As for evidence for my claims, look upon their works and weep.

There is a huge market for popular history for instance. It is not being met by academic historians. We have never had so many tenured academics. As a first order approximation they do not write anything anyone cares to read. Even other academic historians rarely read what other historians write any more. As they are happy to admit in private.

Political science has never had a popular audience. It has a very limited government audience, but it is increasingly irrelevant. When academics turned to the hard left in the sixties, they more or less guaranteed that actual practitioners would not be interested in what they did. There are very few political scientists who are in any way whatsoever influential and then they usually are outside their area of expertise and intellectually at odds with the rest of their discipline.

As for sociology, I don’t need to defend my claims about that. It has long been a standing joke. I don’t think anyone is going to defend this discipline.

32 John L. September 17, 2015 at 7:07 am

“As a first order approximation they do not write anything anyone cares to read.”
Neither do physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers.
“Even other academic historians rarely read what other historians write any more.”
I am pretty sure they all read you.

33 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:21 am

So Much For Subtlety

If you have never studied history, political science, and sociology or other humanities, except on your own time, then how could you possibly be qualified to know the value of studying these fields at university?

Just because the professor doesn’t produce academic research that is of interest to people outside of their field (and be reasonable for a minute, academics are not generally expected, nor intended, to produce research that is of interest to people outside of their specialties … the value of specialization and all), does not mean that students are unable to glean significant knowledge from the professors when they teach about the broader field(s).

Clearly you have gripes with this field, and don’t like that many people in these fields come to conclusions which fail to validate your personal world view.

I don’t mean for you to take this personally … but wouldn’t wannabe right wing fascists just love to abolish the formal study of history, philosophy and sociology, and impose their own personal world views on the population, who would as a result have no/little body of knowledge/expertise to recognize or intellectually counter such a drive to fascism? Yes, I am fearmongering here, and I do it shamelessly. It concerns me greatly to think of how one political establishment or another could subvert entire societies in the absence of a fairly broadly accessed education in philosophy, history, or more broadly speaking, the arts and sciences.

However, there must be some practical argument for an economic value, because we have become GDP-obsessed number crunchers in recent decades. If you had studied any of these fields, you would understand that the critical values they offer is NOT IN THE CONCLUSIONS, it is in the ability to amass complex information into useful synopses, highlighting pros and cons by using specific strategies of argumentation. These skills are broadly needed throughout management layers of any particularly large firm, in the form of report writing.

If you had ever worked in a particularly large business dealing with particularly complex issues, you would probably have come across a handful of utterly useless reports written by people who should never have been graduated from university. Anyone who succeeds in the social sciences and gets high grades on term papers has already shown proof of training in research and writing skills which are absolutely vital within all of the biggest and most profitable business in the world. Sure, this is best completed with some empirical abilities as well, for example in accounting, finance or statistical methods, but absent the ability to present information in a well-written report, some of the best accounting, financial and statistical abilities in the world ends up producing outputs which belong in the dustbin.

As a final argument – consider that almost all of the best universities in the world now insist that their engineers and scientists take a few social sciences courses in order to graduate. Clearly, these courses must be of some value.

34 Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:25 am
35 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

John L. September 17, 2015 at 7:07 am

Neither do physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers.

That is not true actually. There is a large-ish market for best sellers by physicists. Stephen Hawking can probably retire on his popular writings alone. However scientists all have an ability to measure the quality of each others work. In the humanities, not so much. By any realistic measure, they are doing poorly.

Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:21 am

If you have never studied history, political science, and sociology or other humanities, except on your own time, then how could you possibly be qualified to know the value of studying these fields at university?

Impact on society?

Just because the professor doesn’t produce academic research that is of interest to people outside of their field

Actually nothing a humanities professor produces is likely to be of any interesting to anyone. Not even in their field. Not even if it is not academic. You can see citation rates of articles in the humanities. They drop off to nothing in a year or two. No one cares what they write. Not even each other.

does not mean that students are unable to glean significant knowledge from the professors when they teach about the broader field(s).

If they are unable to maintain anyone’s interest in their published work, they are unlikely to be passing anything useful on to their students.

Clearly you have gripes with this field, and don’t like that many people in these fields come to conclusions which fail to validate your personal world view.

If it makes you feel better.

I don’t mean for you to take this personally … but wouldn’t wannabe right wing fascists just love to abolish the formal study of history, philosophy and sociology, and impose their own personal world views on the population, who would as a result have no/little body of knowledge/expertise to recognize or intellectually counter such a drive to fascism?

Ummm, no. Given that the Fascists and the Nazis dominated the academic fields. There were very few German intellectuals, and especially academics, who were not hard core Nazis and most of those were Communists.

But of course recognizing that basic fact would be too hard for someone of your age and experience to understand.

If you had studied any of these fields, you would understand that the critical values they offer is NOT IN THE CONCLUSIONS, it is in the ability to amass complex information into useful synopses, highlighting pros and cons by using specific strategies of argumentation.

That is the theory. The practice is to find out that Churchill said something bad about Indians and call him a Nazi. There is no serious amassing of complex information much less highlighting pros and cons. It has become a simple task of identifying The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, pointing and shouting.

These skills are broadly needed throughout management layers of any particularly large firm, in the form of report writing.

Must be why so many sociologists run major corporations, political parties and international NGOs.

Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:25 am

Also:

http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/14/bbs-paper-on-lack-of-political-diversity/

36 John L. September 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

“Stephen Hawking can probably retire on his popular writings alone.”
It would be a little less silly to mention a physicist who had never guest starred on Star Trek and The Simpsons.

37 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm

“There is a large-ish market for best sellers by physicists. Stephen Hawking …

Stephen Hawking is a special case. Most hard sciences professors are busy teaching hard sciences, not writing best sellers. Having taking some hard sciences courses at a very very top notch research university in the hard sciences, I assure you that the vast majority of professors in the hard sciences will never be writing anything of interest to a broad audience. For that matter, most of the subject matter in undergraduate courses (outside of microbiology/genetics/life sciences) was basically settled decades ago, so whatever they research couldn’t possibly have anything to do with what they teach.

“Impact on society? ”

So … you have never studied any of these fields but have drawn conclusions about what you learn when studying them.

“If they are unable to maintain anyone’s interest in their published work, they are unlikely to be passing anything useful on to their students.”

Some of my best professors, who did a fantastic job at upholding legitimate debate of many sides of arguments, were also required to try to publish papers (“publish or perish” and all). In a number of cases, these papers will be read by a few dozen or few hundred people at best. But they were great teachers, and, well, isn’t that what they are hired to do – teach?

“Ummm, no. Given that the Fascists and the Nazis dominated the academic fields. … But of course recognizing that basic fact would be too hard for someone of your age and experience to understand.”

Fair point, and an interesting one. BUT. Either way. Left, right. Whatever. If bodies of research skewed right and left wingers wanted to systematically undermine it to avoid inconvenient research, I can easily change camps. You see, I’m not very ideological about things. I like knowledge and free enquiry.

” It has become a simple task of identifying The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, pointing and shouting.”

I can only conclude that you either went to a really bad university or didn’t go to university. I truly don’t mean that in any sort of insulting way. You seem like a pretty smart guy, but you seem to have a big problem with universities and academics, and the way you argue about it leads me to make this statement. Here’s how to write a good paper: 1) Make a thesis statement and present the outline of your paper.2) Defend it with heavy references to existing literature, which you are free to rip to shreds if you can sustain it with legitimate reasoning, ideally in support of your thesis. 3) Make a good case for how the exercise proves your thesis. If people are getting away with “identifying The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, pointing and shouting”, then these universities should be losing their right to issue credentials.

“Must be why so many sociologists run major corporations, political parties and international NGOs.”

I referred to “management layers”, not CEOs. Being a good report writer doesn’t mean you’re a good CEO. But without well-written reports, the CEO would be in the dark as to what’s happening in the company. But I read a fairly convincing article a while back about how the critical thinking in philosophy and literature, when complemented by an MBA, can make for great CEOs. I can’t remember the source (Harper’s, maybe?), but they presented some convincing numbers (not very convincing here, since I don’t remember the source) and interviewed CEOs of some very large firms. I think self-selection is also at play here – if your goal is to be CEO, why on earth would you study sociology? Aspiring CEO goes into business, management, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. The graduating sociologist, however (there truly aren’t a lot of jobs in “sociology”), manages to get a job at some company, then advances their position because they can amass information and write about it succinctly. I know a history major who negotiates large commercial contracts, for example, and she excels at it precisely because … she can amass information and write it into a sensible report, and she is accustomed to hunting for tricksy subtext in layers of meaning.

38 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm

John L. September 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

It would be a little less silly to mention a physicist who had never guest starred on Star Trek and The Simpsons.

On the contrary. You claim no physicist has ever written anything that anyone outside their field is interested in. I point to someone who is such a celebrity that he has appeared on Star Trek and the Simpsons. Well naturally you will want everyone who has ever written anything people are interested in excluded. Because he makes you claim look specious. Which it is. But of course it proves the point. An academic who can write clearly about complex issues has a market. Just not that many historians can.

Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Stephen Hawking is a special case.

Of course. It is special cases all the way down.

Some of my best professors, who did a fantastic job at upholding legitimate debate of many sides of arguments,

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but given your performance here, why should anyone take your opinions on what is a good professor or what is a legitimate debate all that seriously?

If bodies of research skewed right and left wingers wanted to systematically undermine it to avoid inconvenient research, I can easily change camps. You see, I’m not very ideological about things. I like knowledge and free enquiry.

You have plenty of opportunities to do so. I notice you have not done so. People keep mentioning genetics and race here. A field the Left has tried to ban completely. But there are others.

If people are getting away with “identifying The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, pointing and shouting”, then these universities should be losing their right to issue credentials.

I agree. In fact that is pretty much what I said.

Being a good report writer doesn’t mean you’re a good CEO.

So if you mean that humanities degrees take mediocre people and teach them some mediocre skills that used to be taught in High School, well, sure. I can live with that.

But I read a fairly convincing article a while back about how the critical thinking in philosophy and literature, when complemented by an MBA, can make for great CEOs. I can’t remember the source

So your idea of a good argument is a half-remembered article you cannot cite that may or may not have said something positive about humanities degrees but you are not quite sure what? I note slipping that MBA qualification is there too. What you mean is that an MBA can make for a great CEO.

I think self-selection is also at play here – if your goal is to be CEO, why on earth would you study sociology?

If sociology taught the skills needed to be a CEO aspiring CEOs would study it. You are simply confirming my point – it is not merely a degree for losers, it is known as a degree for losers so only losers do it. For some other more polite word for loser.

39 Nathan W September 18, 2015 at 12:15 am

On good professors – they encourage debate by giving space for dissenting arguments and stimulate students to want to learn. Of course, they have to do a good job of teaching the subject matter too. But because you don’t like what I have to say you decide to make yourself feel good by insulting my evaluation of some of my profs.

On “race”. There is more intra-group difference than inter-group difference. In otherwords, the concept of “race” fails a basic statistical test after genetic analysis, and thus most biologists consider that the concept of “race” has no validity from the perspective of biology/genetics. (First year biology). Therefore, the vast majority of biologists have zero interest in “race” and leave this field to sociology, where it belongs. “Race” (more suitably referred to as “ethnicity”) is a social construct.

On another note … Have you ever even opened an introductory text book in the fields you vilify? Professors try to publish because that’s how you get tenure, but usually their research has NOTHING to do with what they teach in class.

On CEOs. You are right. Many fields of study are of no interest to aspiring CEOs. Many fields are not intended to produce CEOs. Should I knock the local H-VAC program for failing to produce CEOs?

40 Hoosier September 17, 2015 at 6:47 am

A step forward to what? It sounds like you’re just bitter about these fields even existing. Besides saving an insignificant amount of money what good would come of this?

41 XVO September 17, 2015 at 8:00 am

Less leftists gaining permenant influential positions? More people qualified to do more profitable (for themselves and society) work?

42 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:24 am

XVO – Why do you assume that these fields produce leftists?

43 FUBAR007 September 17, 2015 at 10:25 am

@So Much for Subtlety: “Abolishing them across the West could only be a step forward.”

Would you hold the same view if the majority of academics in these fields leaned toward the right-wing?

44 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 10:45 am

The majority of academic economists tend to be moderately right wing. I think that economics made a massive mistake when it turned to mathematics. And that virtually nothing they have published involving mathematics is worth very much at all.

So I guess I would.

At the moment I certainly think that right wing academics tend to be more interesting than left wing ones. That is partly because there are so few of them. Also because if you meekly conform to the group, you are unlikely to do much that is interesting. Stephen Jay Gould was a good popular writer. He had a mind that was as open to new things as it was possible to be. But as a scientist he wasn’t much. In his field, the people who did really interesting things were people whose work he disliked intensely for political reasons – E. O. Wilson and Bill Hamilton for instance. I think Gould is a great example of someone who should have been interesting but who was not brave enough.

If you looked at the fields of history, political science and perhaps even sociology I would guess the only interesting people publishing are on the Right. David Starkey for instance. James Q. Wilson has actually had a public impact. Charles Murray is probably the only living political scientist any educated person could be expected to know. He is certainly interesting.

45 The Original D September 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Developing the theory of punctuated equilibrium isn’t much?

46 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm

The Original D September 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Developing the theory of punctuated equilibrium isn’t much?

Given it amounts to little but a catchy title, no. The number of people in the field who think it is interesting is probably about two.

47 John September 17, 2015 at 10:07 am

“they are about understanding the world”

How much did you really learn about the world if you end up using a four year college degree to sell furniture at a chain store?

48 carlospln September 17, 2015 at 2:30 am

“I do feel a pang of sadness at economics being included with the rest of the social sciences, but you have to break some eggs to make an omelet”

Small steps toward a much better world!

49 freethinker September 17, 2015 at 5:50 am

philosophy, theology and literature should also be included along with sociology as “standing jokes”

50 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:28 am

People who study in these fields are so used to dissecting texts in the greatest detail, they should be able to spot bulls**t a mile away.

They probably make for very good marketers due to their familiarity with paying great attention to the minutae in text. And also good citizens who are very well trained to spot BS emanating from various political and corporate establishments, among others.

I’ve seen some studies (citations needed) showing that majors like philosophy and English are highly over-represented among CEOs. Apparently critical thinking pays off.

51 freethinker September 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

Nathan thats interesting can you provide links to these studies?.

52 Alain September 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

I guess. The 1st most popular undergraduate degree of CEO is engineering, and 2nd is Business administration, and the 3rd is economics. All of liberal arts together is quite far back from economics, but I suppose those could all be philosophy/English majors who then went on to law.

Maybe. But it sounds like a stretch. No?

53 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Alain – yes, the article I remember most clearly was very clear that additional education in fields more related to business was absolutely critical in putting the philosophy/literature skills to use in their careers as CEOs.

Consider the ability to dissect a complex contract for a business negotiation, or to play on memes/themes/tropes/identity/insecurities and all in effective marketing campaigns.

freethinker – sorry, and I know it discredits the point enormously, but I absolutely cannot remember where I read about this and I can’t find it through Google searches. I think maaaybe it was a Harper’s article from around 2008/9 or so and I read some of the articles cited by the author. Read too much stuff …

54 Moreno Klaus September 17, 2015 at 6:30 am

“However, it is likely to be connected with ongoing financial pressures on Japanese universities, linked to a low birth rate and falling numbers of students, which have led to many institutions running at less than 50 per cent of capacity.” I think this is the most relevant part of the article.

55 mavery September 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

I’ve got some prime age Syrian refugees that I need to move. I could get ’em for Japan for a song!

56 Japanese September 17, 2015 at 10:28 am

No.

57 Brickbats and Adiabats September 17, 2015 at 12:24 am

I can’t help but think that this is a cynical ploy on the part of Abe’s government to remove inconveniently educated people who, for example, might have enough education to smell a rat when Abe goes on a rightist-revisionist tear about his preferred version of history.

58 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 5:09 am

Japanese universities have been dominated by the Hard Left for a long time. As such they are an absolute gift to Abe. As they have been for the Liberal Democratic Party in general. As long as the main opposition was made up of the two main Communist Parties in Japan, the Liberal Democrats could not lose. And they didn’t. After all, who would vote for a party busy discussing whether or not to recognize the fact that South Korea existed? As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, the Socialists became a little more sensible, the most sensible of those split away and were immediately elected. (The Japanese Communist Party itself having moved so far to the Left they welcomed the collapse of the Soviet Union while still criticizing the Eastern Europeans for rejecting the historical inevitability of Communism etc etc).

The best thing for Abe would be lots of interviews with Leftist academics who could explain why the best solution to all of Japan’s problems would be to copy the North Korean model. Think of the joy there would have been in the Bush White House if the only opposition to Iraq were Noam Chomksy and Code Pink.

59 Hoosier September 17, 2015 at 6:49 am

Then how does this move benefit Abe or Japan in general?

60 John L. September 17, 2015 at 7:10 am

One way or another, opposition was the least of Bush’s problems.

61 Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:32 am

And you know all this from personal experience…or did you read it?

62 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:43 am

I don’t know much about Japanese universities, but if someone from the hard right considers Japanese universities as being dominated by the hard left, I feel that it is reasonable to conclude that they are fairly moderate and centrist on average.

The only area of specialization that I recall encountering a lot of Japanese research in was in agricultural economics. Since my master’s thesis was on a topic in agricultural economics, I ended up reading some dozens of papers by Japanese researchers in the field. It seems like pretty normal science to me. … Went to place A with sociopolitical context B and agricultural practice C … here are some baseline measures of yield given certain weather conditions … compared treatment X and Y, here are the results, along with some estimations of economic valuations, then conclude that the potentially “new” strategy is/isn’t worth it.

Is that “left wing” research? It seemed like “good science” to me.

How does “right wing” research work? Count time laughing at “lazy, poor, ignorant bastards” to see how long it takes until someone decides that they’d had enough of working 16 hour days for a pittance and sets out to wage Marxist revolution?

63 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:35 am

Not saying it’s what’s happening.

But if that’s what’s happening, this would be an important early step.

Better pay exceedingly close attention to the next moves.

All they have to do to appease the Chinese is insert a couple lines in their high school texts to say “x number people are estimated to have died in Nanjing and texts which mention “comfort women” in fact refers to the unfortunate practice of forced sexual servitude of women in occupied lands during the war time.”

Then, they can proudly and broadly trumpet a willingness to pay reparations, only to living “comfort women” AFTER the Chinese government tells the truth to its own people about a long list of salient facts about what actually happened under Mao.

64 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 10:35 am

Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:35 am

Don’t tell me, you did a sociology degree right? Some time within the last few years?

All they have to do to appease the Chinese is insert a couple lines in their high school texts to say “x number people are estimated to have died in Nanjing and texts which mention “comfort women” in fact refers to the unfortunate practice of forced sexual servitude of women in occupied lands during the war time.”

It is comments like this I enjoy so much. They combine such a confident willingness to share an opinion with such a boundless confidence in the writer’s own knowledge. Well, virtually all Japanese High School books do actually mention the Nanjing massacre. You knew that, right?

As for comfort women, that is a more complex topic. It depends on what you mean by forced. If by that you mean the Japanese took random women and forced them into serving Japanese soldiers, that is one thing. If, on the other hand, you mean that the Japanese continued the still-quite-popular East Asian tradition of buying impoverished girls from the countryside and then expected them to sleep with soldiers to pay off their debt, well that may be true. But it is odd that the Koreans object to it. Given the present day sex industry in South Korea which is often based on buying impoverished rural girls from Thailand who are expected to sleep with lots of Korean men to pay off their debts.

However what is most amusing is the idea that the Japanese have to do something so simple and then all will be forgiven. On what basis do you come to this conclusion? Let me suggest something else – anti-Japanese anger is so useful to both the Korean governments and to the Chinese government that they will never ever be allowed to apologize. Nothing they do will ever be enough because the main audience is domestic. All three governments are utterly cynical about their exploitation of anti-Japanese anger.

65 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:40 pm

HBA in political science from University of Toronto (2008) and MA in economics from Université Laval (2011). I work as an ESL teacher and translate economic research from French to English.

“Sociology” per se is not a particularly important discipline within the broader social sciences, and I never took a course in sociology per se (although I once gave a quick read of a first year sociology text), so I don’t know much about the content/value of this specific field.

As for the other point about comfort women … I should have emphasized the issue of comfort women more heavily, but note that I tied the issues together. The fact that Japan does not admit to sexual slavery in any way, shape or form is ABSOLUTELY a key factor (at least formally) in ongoing Chinese/Japanese diplomatic tensions. It runs pretty hard for top spot, along with occasional visit to war memorials by right wing politicians. My opinion is based on conversations with Chinese people during a total of three years in China across four separate visits, along with whatever I have read in the media. My understanding is that it was sexual slavery of an absolutely forced nature, during war time, and that YES, tada, by magic, if the Japanese will say “yes, that’s exactly what happened”, then relations will improve significantly (but would not as a result be “perfect”, since there is modern day gepolitical realpolitick to consider as well).

Of course, I think you are also right that the main audience is domestic (usually the correct interpretation for most statements by most governments, although I hadn’t strictly considered it that way until you mentioned it). There is enough bad blood over WWII that I don’t think either Chinese or Korean authorities would have to rely on this to maintain anti-Japan rhetoric. I think they genuinely, really, really, just want Japan to say “Yes, that’s exactly what happened. It was the wrong thing to do, and no amount of apologizing can every make it go away.” The whole world (like, presidents and prime ministers of all countries with relations with Japan) knows it happened. I don’t know why the Japanese insist on calling it “comfort women” and refuse to be explicit about the truth – it just makes them look really bad.

66 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:40 pm

HBA in political science from University of Toronto (2008) and MA in economics from Université Laval (2011).

So you are older than I thought, but I can see why you take this so personally.

The fact that Japan does not admit to sexual slavery in any way, shape or form is ABSOLUTELY a key factor (at least formally) in ongoing Chinese/Japanese diplomatic tensions. It runs pretty hard for top spot, along with occasional visit to war memorials by right wing politicians.

Which is interesting because it was completely irrelevant in Chinese and Korean relations with Japan until the 1980s at the latest. They were not interested in it until some special interest groups started pushing it. There is no sane way you can claim to know what the Chinese or Korean governments think. All you can say is that you think that this is important. But it isn’t. It is like abortion to the GOP. Something they make a public fuss about but don’t really care. If they cared, they would do something about it.

My understanding is that it was sexual slavery of an absolutely forced nature, during war time

There is a problem because of special interest groups coaching the survivors into making the right statements. But the evidence of absolute forced servitude is not strong.

and that YES, tada, by magic, if the Japanese will say “yes, that’s exactly what happened”, then relations will improve significantly

Cute.

There is enough bad blood over WWII that I don’t think either Chinese or Korean authorities would have to rely on this to maintain anti-Japan rhetoric.

The Communist government in China cared so much about war crimes that when they came to power they released all the war criminals the Nationalists had jailed and sent them back to Japan.

67 Nathan W September 18, 2015 at 12:21 am

Na, I don’t take it personally.

I entertain your generally insulting manner because the force of opposition forces me to challenge my existing beliefs, something I think everyone should be open to doing if they actually want to learn.

But, you sure do try so hard to make it personal. Consider “there is no sane way you can claim …” and a million other subtle and no so subtle personal attacks built into your every argument.

68 YetAnotherTom September 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

If I were king, Tyler would be teaching classes on picking out good ethnic restaurants. None of this useless GDP gobbledygook.

69 John September 17, 2015 at 10:12 am

It isn’t that economics should not be taught, it is a question how many programs are effective. By that I knew how many schools are effectively placing graduates in appropriate positions.

I suspect that economics is better than most humanities by that measure.

70 Chip September 17, 2015 at 12:37 am

Makes sense.

Why would their growing robot population be interested in humanities.

71 Econchic September 18, 2015 at 2:20 pm

+1. Lets not forget the robots will be women made by men since the real women will be discriminated out of existence….oh wait that is already happening in Japan.

72 Kai September 17, 2015 at 1:39 am

This seems too easy to do. If such a decree were made in China, I imagine there would be more resistance and the order could not be carried through intact.

73 Richard September 17, 2015 at 2:22 am

Are social sciences bastions of the left in Japan like they are in the United States? Might that be a motivation behind this?

74 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

Perhaps the explanation could be that, after studying a question in great detail, that right wing policies are too simplistic?

Consider “tough on crime” or minimum wages, for example. Despite the right wing having the advantage in “common sense” on the matters, more in depth research generally fails to validate positions generally preferred by the right wing.

Yes, it could be due to left wing bias of researchers who intentionally ignore methods that lead to certain conclusions. But are you even open, a tiny tiny bit, to considering that in-depth research plain and simply fails to validate the “optimality” of some key features of “right wing policy”,?

75 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

Consider “tough on crime” or minimum wages, for example. Despite the right wing having the advantage in “common sense” on the matters, more in depth research generally fails to validate positions generally preferred by the right wing.

Ummm, no. Actually. The in depth research and the real world evidence shows that the Right is right about both of those positions. Not jailing people does not reduce crime. Jailing them does. Minimum wage laws cost jobs.

These are, as far as anything can be in these fields, facts.

But are you even open, a tiny tiny bit, to considering that in-depth research plain and simply fails to validate the “optimality” of some key features of “right wing policy”,?

Of course there are Right wing policies that fail to be supported by research. But the Right does not usually try to make those conclusions and that research illegal. As the Left is inclined to do. The fact that calls for bans come almost entirely from the Left shows you who is really afraid of research.

76 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Literature exists to support both sides of the argument.

I find that right wingers flat out dismiss any research which fails to validate “tough on crime” (notable features such as mandatory sentencing or “three strikes” policies) as smart policy, or which fails to find that the minimum wages leads to job losses.

You’re being very stubborn in your position, which is why I am so insistent on arguing the other side of the story.

77 Sendlinger Tor September 17, 2015 at 2:30 am

It would be useful to interpret this in light of the last sentence in the article, which notes that some universities are operating at less than 50% capacity. This step may be the alternative to closures.

78 freethinker September 17, 2015 at 5:45 am

I wish policy makers in India where I live shut down humanities departments in the universities. These departments churn out unemployable graduates who are fit only to teach the same useless stuff to the next generation of unemployable students. The teachers who teach in these wasteful departments are aware that they are teaching worthless disciplines: they ensure their own kids come no where near these departments and instead enroll on medicine or engineering. But any suggestion to close down these wasteful programmes is considered almost criminal. Unfortunately in India the state supports universities teaching stuff like philosophy, anthropology and Sanskrit which have very low job potential. A poor economy like mine cannot afford such wasteful use of scarce resources.

79 chuck martel September 17, 2015 at 6:47 am

Philosophy and anthropology aren’t only important at the university level, they’re subjects that should be taught extensively in high school. In fact, the average American, even ones with a college degree, would have a hard time explaining their own world view and the cultural differences between themselves and some members of their own societies. Some of them comment regularly on this blog.

80 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

“Some of them comment regularly on this blog.” LOL

81 Hoosier September 17, 2015 at 6:52 am

“Wasteful use of scarce resources” really? What percentage of Indians study these subjects? I see just bitterness and spite in this thread from those supporting the decision.

82 Mike W September 17, 2015 at 9:41 am

Wouldn’t the relevant statistic be the percentage of Indians with the capability to do university level work? And can a poor society afford to have those folks working in fields that raise the quality of life but not the standard of living? That may be the driver behind the Japanese action…i.e., in an aging society that does not allow immigration can it afford for those people to not be working in the economy?

83 freethinker September 17, 2015 at 10:37 am

Hoosier, I did not mention that in India most students who enroll in social science and humanities programmes are those who were denied admission in job oriented programmes. They study them just to tell people they are not unemployed. When they graduate they have no job oriented skills or even intellectual value addition; they just have a piece of paper called a degree certificate. They join these programmes because fees are very low for them in universities and colleges run by the Indian states and lower in those funded by the central government. Moreover, certain category of students get scholarship which covers tuition fees. There is even a state in southern India where, government colleges don’t charge any fees!! I could not believe this but a principal of a college confirmed it! So enrollment for all the programmes is assured ! A poor nation just cannot use its resources like this. I am not against promoting scholarship in these disciplines but not with public money.

84 R S Deshpande September 18, 2015 at 8:37 pm

I strongly feel that these comments are quite immature, as I interact with super scientists and thwy now want to understand Social Sciences and Philosophy, the bus they feel they missed. It si ecesary to understand what social sciences and humanities means before passing an immature judgement.

85 Matt B September 17, 2015 at 11:48 am

A lot of this is STEM number jockey anger at the fact that their bosses are all charisamatic MBAs who don’t have stem backgrounds. Punching down at the Starbucks barista because your boss thinks you are a easily replaced nerd.

86 John September 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm

I think a STEM is working at a 3rd rung firm if their boss is an MBA 😉

(OK, seriously both “STEM” and “MBA” are too broad of categories. I mean the surplus of general “biology” majors creep into STEM and face bad futures. As do 100th-ranked-school MBAs.)

87 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:56 am

I think that the Indian intellectual establishment is unabashedly willing to sacrifice some of the obsession with GDP and economic growth in exchange for a focus on cultural advance/evolution.

For better or worse, this presently appears to be the Indian way.

What bothers me about it is that it is people who come from privileged backgrounds (who are already relatively wealthy) who speak out in favour of Marxist-imbued preferences for artisanship, and against the dehumanizing conditions, while I anticipate that the vast majority of the population would readily exchange their trade for these very same “dehumanizing” conditions were it to double their very low income.

88 Millian September 17, 2015 at 6:11 am

STEM is overrepresented among leadership cadres in despotic countries like China and Iran. It seems that engineering-type degrees train people to believe in society as an immutable framework of cogs, means to ends.

89 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 10:00 am

I will never forget, in my first year of university in engineering, having a debate with a fellow engineering student, who insisted that “the world would be a better place if everyone were an engineer”. Completely impervious to questions like “who will teach your children” (we will automate it) “who will flip your burgers” (we will automate that to) or “who will debate the important matters in society” …

I personally believe that the dominance of engineers in the leadership cadre of China was very useful in leading the country through some earlier stages of growth, but I sort of doubt that they will have sufficient respect for the role creativity, etc. to be able to fully unleash the potential of the Chinese mind. (Also, of course, maintaining control of the CCP more than likely remains priority one – closely linked to the legitimacy offered by delivering on economic growth) .

90 John September 17, 2015 at 10:15 am

Engineering types vary quite broadly, but in general they read books, and commit to lifelong learning.

It is not a college-and-done thing, which I think is far more dangerous.

91 FUBAR007 September 17, 2015 at 10:34 am

@Millian: “It seems that engineering-type degrees train people to believe in society as an immutable framework of cogs, means to ends.”

Speaking as someone who’s worked with them for years, yup. The mature ones recognize that and check themselves accordingly. Then, there’s the small, but excessively vocal minority who have massive Napoleon complexes, think everyone who isn’t an engineering-type is a useless troglodyte, and never miss an occasion to voice that opinion. Invariably, the latter lack social skills, are despised by most of their colleagues including fellow engineers, and, most importantly, aren’t anywhere near as intelligent, wise, or competent as they think they are.

92 Mathieu P September 17, 2015 at 7:18 am

Why not include the bottom paragraph of the quoted article? It reads:
“However, it is likely to be connected with ongoing financial pressures on Japanese universities, linked to a low birth rate and falling numbers of students, which have led to many institutions running at less than 50 per cent of capacity.”

Could it be possible that the Humanities departments are the ones with most over-capacity in non-top universities?

93 Peldrigal September 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

“Why not include the bottom paragraph of the quoted article?”

*chorus* So say we all.

94 dearieme September 17, 2015 at 7:20 am

My instinct to pile in and defend the humanities is outweighed by my suspicion that much humanities “education” has degenerated into rubbishy socialist indoctrination.

Of course, if the students were required to read Lenin and Mao in the original Russian and Chinese, it might indeed be part of an education. And Das Kapital in German, I suppose. And bits of agitprop in French and Italian. Actually you could base a humanities education on socialist rubbish; all you’d need to do is insist the students master a reading knowledge of several foreign languages, and then approach the subject matter in a critical spirit. Which is why it’s never done, I suppose.

95 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 10:05 am

While philosophical study of Marx (and others) will surely open your mind, a critical study of it is one of the quickest ways to recognize that it provides absolutely nothing of practical use when it comes to actual administration of an economy.

I think Mao’s philosophy is absolute rubbish. He was clearly a good general (he won), and as a prolific writer, a few percent of what he said was not rubbish. Again, actually reading it might open your mind a bit, but a critical reading is also very instructive in how little it has to offer for practical administration or policy making in a modern economy.

96 mapman September 17, 2015 at 9:21 pm

“Social anthropology”, one of the mainstays of the Humanities in the USA is actually much more propaganda-filled and less fact-based than was “Marxism-Leninism” in the USSR. Speaking from my own personal experience.

97 Marginal Comment September 17, 2015 at 9:15 am

This may not be an attack on the humanities and social sciences per se. Many Japanese universities (not U. Tokyo) do not have enough students to justify their faculties. There have been attempts to attract foreign students, as many US institutions have done, but it doesn’t seem to me that these efforts have been successful. The majority of universities still teach in Japanese and efforts to start degree programs in English have been half-hearted. Not to mention the university system in Japan operates on a different calendar. (I believe U. Tokyo has discussed changing the calendar to match US institutions)

This might be the easiest and quickest way to achieve the types of changes that are needed. The humanities are an easy target and you can achieve cuts more quickly if you divide the faculty. Many of the departments in more technical fields also have some interaction with large corporate firms, which could be seen a justification of their continued existence regardless of number of students.

98 Art Deco September 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

I would love for the state and federal governments here to enact measures distinct in spirit but alike in bombing large swaths of the higher education apparat. Among vocational faculties: teacher training, social work, and library administration have been asking for it. In and amongst the academic arts and sciences and fine and performing arts arts: victimology programs, inter-disciplinary programs generally, English literature, comparative literature, studio art, cultural anthroplogy, social psychology, geography, and non-quantitative sociology are commonly asking for it (though not universally so). Amongst private institutions, so are divinity schools. Working attorneys I correspond with tell me that legal education is padded and misconceived (quite apart from the convention of requiring a BA to attend law school): designed to train appellate judges and not working lawyers. There are also a mess of fuzzy vocational measures which seem the idiosyncratic project of the institution in question (‘health resources management’) that ought to be worked into more stereotyped programs. And, of course, there is the genEd nonsense which eats up so much student time and effort.

99 Chris S September 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

Why do we assume that all education must take place in universities? I’d argue that, aside from the signal of an actual degree (is that all the value there is?) humanities and social science is particularly accessible outside a university setting, compared to engineering, especially at the undergrad level.

100 John September 17, 2015 at 11:38 am

incentives matter. there is a whole network that can only capture value when things are tought at 4 year institutions.

101 Dots September 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm

it seems likely that the market will do this, too, under the Rubio plan

elite unis will keep their humanities departments. we probably need some of them. the crappy humanities departments will melt, tho, and the human capital will b redistributed

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