Journalism and Underwater Basket Weaving

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Raging complaints
on all sides of political issues take stabs at the media for misrepresenting
one thing or another. People argue that the media companies are
responsible for the lack of knowledge and integrity in modern-day
journalism. But the root cause of the problem in the media goes
back even further, to the college years.

English programs
around the country attract thousands of students each year. In these
studies, students study classical works, modern writers, and proper
grammar. The outcome is a person with an extremely powerful weapon:
the ability to persuade and influence through text. (I must admit
that any English student writes far better than I, a lowly economics
major, buried in the texts of Rothbard, Mises, and the other economic
greats.)

Have you read
an article lately, written by an English major, in a college newspaper?
It's either a pitiful attempt at a sports review or incessant babbling
about the cafeteria food composed in a witty, irresistible format.

Now, every
once in a while, they dare to write an article on politics and/or
economics. I have to admit that I hardly ever read the whole article.
Not because the article is written poorly, but because I cannot
stop vomiting profusely at the utter ignorance and Marxist propaganda
found within the lines.

The threat
posed by English majors is their ability to write skillfully, but
without proper knowledge, information, or theory. Most college writers
have gathered their political understanding from Michael Moore movies,
viewed intermittently between bong hits. If the college writer is
adventurous, he or she may have read Nickeled
and Dimed
or The
Jungle
, the biblical texts of many collegiate political
writers. And if they are really studious, they have even read some
Karl Marx.

And so the
result of this research leads to some of the most well-written and
convincing untruths about human kind and economic theory. These
students, throughout their education, have learned all about using
emotional appeals in their writing to influence an audience. Nobody
needs to write an honest article. Simply create a few strawmen,
a victim, and cite a bit of socialist theory, and you have just
the right ingredients.

Now, I don't
want to go too far. I'm not suggesting that all students should
read Rothbard, Mises, and Hayek. (God bless them if they do!) Some
simple theory would suffice; even a strictly Keynesian course in
economics would greatly benefit any future writer.

Surely, you
must agree that there is place for elective courses of study. These
electives can be used to garner further information about the world.
The additional writing material from taking these classes can be
potentially endless. If a student were to diversify, they could
study economics, biology, and political science, with upper level
history classes. With so much knowledge, an English student could
actually gain perspectives of the world not offered in common curriculum.
I'm not suggesting this would help future writers with conversion
to more free market ideas – though that is a possibility. If anything,
students would inevitably learn to write in a manner more responsive
to theory and the human condition, than on unwarranted, unjustified
emotional appeals.

But the reality
of elective courses is that most students take the easiest, weirdest,
and dumbest courses possible. I must admit that for this reason,
I proudly earned credits in Native American Religions and
Architecture and Society. Okay, so I only took the Architecture
and Society class because Jazz and American Culture was
already full. But what can you do? Most students choose electives
the same way I did.

Instead of
taking classes to diversify knowledge, English majors take Film
in the 1990's, Witchcraft, West African Tribal Religions,
or Underwater Basket Weaving. At Loyola University in New
Orleans, one English professor teaches a class called Harrison
Ford. No, I'm not kidding; this is a class about Harrison Ford.
Students watch all of his movies and write essays about him. Oh,
the value of a college education!! (I'm really only insulting the
class because I ran out of electives and am secretly envious of
those who took it!)

But what can
you do, really? It's impossible to actually expect a student to
take Macroeconomics or Industrial Organization and Public
Policy as an elective. Any knowledge of economics will at best
be learned from a Marxist sociology class with the word "society"
somewhere in the title. And so, unfortunately, thousands of English
students one day end up writing articles about economic issues with
little knowledge of actual theory or workings.

This is a big
reason why so many of us are upset at the things we see and read
in the media. Colleges and universities have pumped out a generation
of Underwater Basket Weaving students with all the English
skills to persuade the general public to believe any boneheaded
idea they may publish. But, hey, it's not all hopeless – at least
they know a lot about Harrison Ford.

June
21, 2006

Vedran
Vuk [send him mail] is a student
of Economics at Loyola University of New Orleans, and a 2006 Summer
Fellow at the Mises Institute.

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