Time for the Yearly Identity Crisis

Something interesting happened in my business calculus class today. The prof gave a quiz that had questions that we’d never seen before, but with some understanding of the concepts we did know, could be solved with a couple of smart realizations.

To the tell the truth, the quiz knocked my on my butt- I had been slacking for a day or so, and in an accelerated 4-week course, that is all you need to be in deep water. But pretty much everyone didn’t get the problems, even though they weren’t all that hard.  In fact, after the quiz, the students pretty much revolted against the prof. They seemed to think that she couldn’t test on anything that wasn’t on the homework. But she wasn’t testing uncovered material, she was just giving us problems that were slightly different from the ones we already saw on the homework.

I was flabbergasted by the reaction. Here were at least fifteen students who sincerely believed that they were only responsible for rote memorization, and not the critical reasoning and analysis skills that they should actually be learning.

Then I remembered: These are business students. They are not engineers or scientists, whose whole professions revolve around innovation and challenging our preconceptions. Business, in free market capitalism, often thrives on imitation and adopting others’ ideas. Simply put, there is little incentive to bother with analysis and creativity in business.

For the first time, I realized why they have a separate calculus class for the business majors! Simply put, they would die in Calc for Scientists. But that puts me in a strange position: I am very happy with my business major, since it gives me the technical software engineering skills as well as the business communication and management skills that will differentiate me from the next guy applying for a tech job.

But every once in a while, I get the feeling that my job isn’t enough on the tech end. It’s too biased towards proprietary Microsoft technologies, and doesn’t expose students nearly enough to UNIX/Linux environments or industry-standard languages like C, Python, Java, or PHP. And like my business calc class demonstrates, there isn’t a true push to understand or innovate.

I’ve considered adding a Computer Science major, or switching to Applied Computing Technology (Really CS with a business minor, as opposed to my current Business Major with the CIS concentration.) But to do so, I would have to retrace my steps in the introductory classes; they’d be different programming languages, but essentially the same basic concepts.

Also, I don’t think it means that much of a difference in the job field. They will be more interested in what I can actually do, not which degree I have. Since I already have the motive to learn the extra UNIX skills and non-Microsoft languages, I could easily teach myself the stuff. It would avoid annoying course prerequisites and save me some money.

Really I’m most concerned with the innovation, with differentiating myself from my competition. I guess that it may prove to give me an edge in the future, but whatever I choose to do, it’s gonna be a rough road ahead while I learn all of this stuff. (And I’m gonna have to put up with – sigh – being a Business major.)

2 comments Time for the Yearly Identity Crisis

Alan says:

You just realized this? :-p

Ask my friend about his intro econ class (mostly business majors). The midterm questions were all given in advance… verbatim… and were multiple choice… with the correct answer given along with the reasoning for it.
A bunch of the people still had a lot of trouble with the exam (and apparently failed it).

I hate business majors. -_- They do so much less work than us and make so much more. Then again, I suppose you can’t put a price on charisma.

Zeke says:

Meh. I don’t like some business majors – the ones who are just interested in making a quick profit. I figure the business skills can’t hurt me, but I have a lot more interest in the technical stuff. I just can’t believe that so many CS / ECE programs don’t do shit to give their students any business or communication skills, so they have all this technical skill but nothing to survive or fend for themselves in the corporate environment – they just listen to what the dumb MBA manager tells them.
Some kind of middle ground is crucial.

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