In Part IV of our series, “The Value of a Liberal Arts Degree,” a star alum Russian major remembers the right-sizing of the humanities.
By Plato, BA, MBA, WTF
From “The Alumni News,” 33 September 2071
Walking into orientation on my first day a guy said he had an MBA and was working for a contractor called StudentSoft and he says “Hey” and I’m like “Hey” and he told me about credits and how employers will look to see that I have a well-rounded education in all the big areas. And that’s exactly what my liberal arts degree gave me.
The Importance of Great Books
My Great Books class really didn’t have any books but it did have excerpts that were posted on iClasses and Siri would read it to you and you could still solve labor productivity equations while you listened. It was like 5 pages a week in sort of small print and some students petitioned to call it Great Paragraphs so that they wouldn’t get scared and now they call it Great PowerPoints because the college was sensitive to student demand. It was pretty balanced between different perspectives which is what a liberal arts education gives you. Foundational tweets like Measurement Without Morality, Calculation without Mercy, Atlas Shrugged, The Art of the Deal, lots by Icahn and lots of ethics like What I Learned When I Got Caught and How Not to Get Caught. I saw most of them on YouTubeU before it was formally accredited. I mean, it wasn’t like totally ethical but that’s the point of the video, we don’t know exactly what’s ethical and who are you to “Orientalize” me anyway? Critical thinking gave me the edge I needed.
We also took courses in the Classics Department like Dale Carnegie and Horatio Alger and Steve Jobs and in my Late Antiquity class we heard about factory workers who made stuff. In Civics we did “The Panama Papers: Profiles in Courage” and the prof would not tell us what was right and what was wrong because that was for like some other discipline but that department was closed because they were too normative and biased and donors wouldn’t give them any money and no one wanted to take their classes.
The Keys to the World
I think my graduating class was the last one to have a foreign language requirement which was still cool because before the university gave us Qwikwordz for free there were still lots of different programs to master like Google Translate and Babel and Rosetta Stone. I took French for Business and I still remember that moment when I realized I was getting it and pressed a button and Siri says “I think their forearm am” meaning like have a firm handshake or that someone is thinking for you which is good because we were pretty busy with the numbers and building models. WikiBloombergPhilosophy said it really meant “I pay therefore I can” which was deep if you look at it in the right discursive universe IDGAS. I transferred to Introductory Emoji.
But my profs told me not to worry too much about it because we were doing real-life learning which is what a liberal arts education is about. Most of it was like history podcasts like “Flexible Labor Markets in the Bantustans,” probing geography discourses like “Homelessness: An Efficient Allocation of Sidewalk Space?” and humanities like “Getting the Most Out of Your Human Resources without Killing Them” and “It’s Never Personal: How Numbers Free You from Responsibility” and “Telecom from Rational Choice to No Choice: A Study in Deregulation” which was about how people-corporations fought for their rights. Which is pretty cool because I believe in social justice.
By senior year each class was named after a donor, and I was in awe when I walked into “Rupert Murdoch Media for Business 201: The Declining Marginal Utility of Truth.” In Jeff Bezos Philosophy for Business 201 we did a corporate case study of Play-dough that explained why we’re not all the same and shouldn’t be because some of us are paid in gold and some in silver and some in bronze and that makes us each gold and silver and bronze, but now we’ve added like tin and aluminum foil and chocolate wrappers because more and more people have not made rational choices. But we shouldn’t judge them and we shouldn’t feel guilty and we shouldn’t care because that would be biased and like normative.
It didn’t take a lot of thinking but it took a lot of work but we all had ways to get LD meds and stay up to brain storm our case studies. Looking back I’m pretty nostalgic because that’s when I made my best friends, and sometimes we played the same tunes on our earbuds and sometimes we looked at each other but we always stayed focused thanks to the LD meds and because the one thing you did not have time for was to make things too complicated. That’s when “If you think you sink” was written on the statue of KochAlmaMater and the entrance to campus was renamed The Bill and Melinda Gates Gates.
Seeing the Real World
Internships were pretty cool and my first one was for CitiHaliburtonUCLA. I had to live in like a two bedroom on six figures but you know college is hard and you learn a lot. My job that summer was to bundle student debt and find ways to trade them on the free market and I called it Financially Underperforming Collateralized Kwikloanz Educational Devices. I got a big bonus because I showed it was efficient to buy up the student loans cheap and make the debtors accountable for their choices by showing that people were money and so debt was people and so both could be seized. The debt was collateralized but since they don’t own anything they had to be the collateral and bought and sold which I learned in GoldmanSachs Marxism for Business class.
And You Can Still Specialize!
I was a Russian major but one of the last ones because everyone had to take trickle-down jobs cleaning houses to pay the interest on their loans which meant the people-banks did ok or they sent the bad choice-makers to student debt prison in Pennsylvania where they filmed all the post-apocalyptic movies and they worked as extras in zombie movies reading Proust. But most got paroled over to AmazonWholeFoodsWharton to pay the debt back where they followed around the customers and said “If you liked this you might also like…” which made me feel like I was part of a community of like-minded consumers and put a dent in the loneliness. A few of the debtors got bought by RosnefgosvneshprombankgazpromalfaMGU because they were Russian majors and traded away by the American bank-persons and worked off their debts in Severoputinsk. I think they are still there.
Change Can Be Hard…
All this gave me a valuable degree in Russian Studies where all this learning was applied but like I said I was one of the last ones because the college was going in a different direction. I remember some really cray-cray profs with beards and hair and cigarettes talking about Anna Karenina’s rational choice and pioneer CEOs like Peter the Great and the management revolution of 1917 but the Department so wanted majors and surveyed student demand so they didn’t make us read any of that by my junior year. I just had to make sure that I inserted “R” for “Russia” in some of the equations and it was cool.
I remember the truck taking away the last books to the recycling center because we had a strict green policy and I remember the last prof who the cops had to take out when she attacked them with a dictionary which was a kind of book and the other one who was placed in a care home babbling a weird language that Siri couldn’t understand because of his accent. I do remember some American words like “ambiguous” but Siri didn’t know what that was and kept answering “ambitious” and he had dandruff and it haunts me to this day.
Then the EZLearn shuttle bus would pull up every morning bringing in the adjuncts from the exurbs to teach “A CEO for Our Time” and “Crime and Acquittal” and “War and Opportunity” (epic!) and “Stalin: Managerial Giant” and “What Is to Be Downsized?” Since we didn’t have full time faculty it opened a lot of space up and it’s still open except for the Starbucks and the Luxury Condos because the teaching was automated a few years later. When I logged in they asked me if I’m a bot and they said I am too and have a nice day and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns. The customer service was excellent and if I did have questions or concerns I could call Hank in Bombay where they still learned how to read and write English. I could work and eat my takeout alone. Very alone, except when I called Hank in Bombay to hear his passive aggressive “perfect diction.”
A lot of the time I was really bored but they told me this was a college education and after a while I learned that this was true and that the something else I was hoping for was a fantasy like love or beautiful or truth or justice yada yada yada and I needed to grow up and like get real. In Russian Avant-Garde for Business I met a person and she said “Hey” and I was like “Hey” and we connected and so I did a cost-benefit analysis of the person who would become the optimal efficiency of my life and share my expenses and build a multiperson LLC together. After graduation we lived a good life in our beige condo with charcoal furniture and recessed LED lighting until she failed her spousal performance review two years in a row and no recalibration of the Viagra could save our partnership even though we went to our CPA for counselling but she could read the same math on the wall and it was ok because someone bought her out and took away the kids who were sent away to assemble Androids. It was the optimal use for little hands.
The contractors who ran the university and were our academic advisors because they had MBAs could look up the requirements and they open-carried because they thought the downsized faculty hated them and the students went batshit pretty often and said things like “this can’t be all” as they sailed off the clock tower and were scooped up by Soylent Nutrition Solutions that ran the cafeteria that was committed to “reducing our carbon footprint, one English major at a time!” Which was cool because I’m pro-environment.
…But It All Works Out
The MBAs who won the contract for the Registrar said that they were sensitive to student demand and were doing everything they could to give us a more satisfying and marketable experience so everyone did business and econ even though they called it like Russian or Farsi or whatever. But since we used the same methods on Botswana as we did on Sweden and the answer was always zero we realized that there was no difference and there was no reason to have fragmented efficiencies so we achieved greater economies of scale so now it’s just one degree. By senior year the advisors gave us a lot more choices, from ECON101 to ECON62,422 which was cool because I’m pro-choice. Now our degree means the same thing everywhere which makes it like THE case study in branding and we blew away GoogleStanfordCompU where they only went up to COMPSCI54,221 and we totally owned Cooper Union Pay as You Go iTunes Classes and NYUCentury21.
The Proudest Moment of My Life
Graduation was tastefully managed by MGM Grand Casinos with pastel-colored fireworks and they served complementary beverages. You’ll never guess who gave the KPMG Valedictorian Address, “These Hollow Halls”?!! My parents were so proud because I received the Verizon Leadership Award for my capstone project where I showed that most labor could be performed by giant pandas and President Bloomberg shook my hand because we saved the pandas and the bamboo forests from extinction by making them into revenue centers. But my parents’ tears were bittersweet because they had been made redundant by giant pandas and they eat boiled bamboo and they rely on JohnsHopkins Trumpcare BigTime and get free aspirins and TOTALLY optional cyanide Epipens in their Glaxo Holiday Swag Bags. But they got good offers from Soylent AND Human Waste Solutions AND Clean Biodiesel and the bids are going up so the market works and they have choices.
I have my degree proudly displayed next to my 600-inch screen and I still have the plastic water bottle and stress-ball with the logo on it and I’ll admit I get emotional in ways I still can’t measure so it doesn’t really matter. In my waning years I wait for new seasons of the Simpsons and I prank-call Hank in Bombay who told me his name is Rajiv and he’s not my friend and won’t you please fuck off in his oh so superior English accent ha ha ha.
And that’s the value of a liberal arts degree. I owe it all to my college. It made me the person I am.
Plato holds a BA in Russian for Business, an MBA in Business for Russia, and a certificate from World Thought Forum motivational speaking. He is a retired efficiency expert at Smith&Wesson-UnitedHealthcare, “Two Companies, One Goal.” You can write him at KushnerIKEA Condocity #32, unit 84,402, Jersey City, NJ, 01010. Please write. Please, please write.
Translated from the original Emoji by Hank.