It’s Not B-School v. J-School, Dude

I don’t know who this clown Richard Sine is, and I’m hesitant even to link to his post over at the HuffPost, but it’s wrong to mention his article and not produce some evidence of it’s existence.  Suffice it to say, I don’t really agree with his sentiment, but if he wants to think he knows everything there is to know about journalism school, grad and undergrad, Columbia and everywhere else (thought he doesn’t mention any school other than Columbia, which leads me to believe that’s his one and only example, but I could very well be incorrect) I can’t do much besides blog about it.

Look, I get his point about the way the business is trending.  In fact, I have a lot of problems with the way the media presents itself, a lot of issues with the way every jackass on TV thinks they’re God’s gift to earth (Joe Scarborough, anyone?).  But this anecdotal evidence is just that:

I resisted J-school for several years as I pursued a career in newspapers. Finally, in 2003, I accepted an offer to study business journalism on fellowship. I took half my classes at the business school. The B-schoolers were passionate, driven, and excited about their future; the J-schoolers seemed timid, desultory, and aimless. At the J-school, the prizewinners whose names had lured students to the program were indulged with classes on topics with no practical career use. Meanwhile, the B-schoolers learned how to boost productivity and adapt to changing markets.

Yes.  Everyone in business school is so very motivated, wherever you go, no matter the quality, the brand, or the type of school.  Every four year is like a two year, and so on.  In reality that’s not how it works at all.  I’m sure there are a lot of community and/or two-year schools that have stellar B-school, or J-school, or history, or culinary, or what-have-you, students (particularly in my neck off the woods, the two-year college students are very highly regarded).  Because they are there to gain skills that they need to succeed.  Lot’s of four-year students — but by no means all! — are there because they need that degree for their own ego or their parents’.  They’ve never imagined a life without a bachelor’s degree, nor have their parents, and that’s why they went to college.

Nonetheless, there are tons of undergrads at four-year schools who are there for the intellectual stimulation and the education.  Including many who are in J-school.  There are so many undergrads at the Scripps’ School who are incredibly motivated — they know just what they want to do, and they have made themselves involved and successful to prove it.  I’m consistently impressed by a good chunk of them, just as, I hope, many would be by my own work as a graduate student at the same school.  But then again, there are also grad students who don’t seem that interesting or impressive.  Compared to many business school students, they may seem lackluster.

My point is, of course, that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  And just because Richard Sine has met a few graduates of Columbia’s J-School that he thought were below par — when I’ve met a bunch who are top-notch, so what does that say about our experiences? — doesn’t mean that the whole lot are worthless.  There are myriad routes to success in any industry.  Let’s try to encourage such a plethora of paths, instead of suggesting that a whole contingent of young people are heading off in the wrong direction.  I’d like to see what Mr. Sine was doing with his life when he was 18.  Doubtful if he was as involved and motivated as half the undergrads I meet at the Scripps’ School.

I should add that as someone who received my BA in History, a proud liberal arts graduate, I believe very much in a college education that encourages students to pursue learning, not a career.  But that’s not for everyone, and shouldn’t prohibit others from choosing other paths.  Nor should we presume that everyone going to get a journalism degree is aiming to become the next Bob Woodward.  Many may be going for their own “liberal arts” degree, although of a different kind.

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