There have been a couple of posts on this blog earlier this year discussing the limits of the good of a humanities education. Blogger John Armstrong recently shared his thoughts in a similar vein.
I have amassed plenty of formal education (including a master's degree in which the diploma is written in Latin, which I find very pretentious, so I don't display it). In my growing up, formal education was basically a part of the cultural environment of the home - both parents with PhDs (I remember people calling asking for "Dr. ___________" and I had to ask the caller which one), and all four of my grandparents even had at least a four-year degree, with three of them holding graduate degrees. It was just always pretty much assumed that I and my two younger siblings would earn bachelor's degrees at the very least. Two of us have gone the formal education route, and the third easily could have, but had employable skills in the technology (software development) field, and he couldn't resist making good money so never finished a formal degree. My degree is in humanities; my sister's at least is a practical one in nursing, which she uses in real life.
A humanities degree has worked out for me only because I knew in college that my profession would require a certain type of masters degree anyways, so I could study whatever the heck I wanted in college - I still would have to go on a step further. If I had not known then what profession I would be entering, the degree would have left me with nowhere to go in the real world. Even though I found the subject matter interesting, I would not make the same choice now, 10 years after graduation. In fact, if I ever wanted to change professions, neither of my formal degrees would matter at all - I would pretty much have to start from scratch.
All of this on my mind because I now have the role of being a father myself. It is important to me that I be careful not to let the kinds of assumptions that were in place for me be in place for my children. The world of the next generation will only see continuing specializations in terms of professional opportunities; unless my children show a particular aptitude for humanities, I will most certainly steer them away from such a course of study. It may leave the world a somewhat less culturally enriched place, but hopefully it will spare my children impoverished existences in the kind of global marketplace that will develop during their lifetimes. The world in which I grew up, one that encouraged college as a way to secure a good life for yourself, simply is not the world that is down the road.