When I saw a note in the New York Times recently saying that CBS is going to bring in some Canadian series to fill the void left by the WGA strike, I thought, “now there’s a good idea – Canadian TV rules.”
Which may not always be true, but some of my most obsessive television viewing moments have happened in Canadian hotels. Like the time we watched almost an entire season of Canada’s Next Top Model in a two-night marathon. Or the time we watched a whole Lost rerun in French, trying to find out what they would do when Danielle Rousseau had to talk (she wasn’t on – we still don’t know). And then there’s the time I spent a whole afternoon in Vancouver watching the BC skip Kelly Scott lead her team to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship.
(Seriously, like four hours of curling)
So you may want to take it with a grain of salt when I say that I love the Canadian series Slings and Arrows so much that I think everyone else might love it too. But really, this isn’t just weird obsession – it’s a really good show. It’s been running on the Sundance channel, so some of you might have seen it already. It’s set in a regional theatre company, and each season is loosely centered on a different Shakespeare play. The first season is about Hamlet – and they pretty much had me there.
In the third episode there’s a sequence where troubled actor/director Geoffrey teaches Hamlet in a business seminar that is the perfect explanation for why the liberal arts matter, and should continue to matter. It’s in the middle of this much longer clip on YouTube here – the segment I mean starts about 3 minutes in.
(warning – the segment right before it is a little racy)
I was doubly reminded of this by the writer’s strike note plus this story in Inside Higher Ed – ‘Business’ by Any Other name – about how Spelman is trying to develop an interdisciplinary liberal arts program that prepares graduates for the business world.
Ever since I was an undergraduate at a school that had both a highly respected B-school and a topnotch liberal arts college I’ve had doubts about the undergraduate business major. My roommates pursuing business majors started talking sophomore year about their classes cross-listed with the MBA program – and since they expected to need the MBA themselves, they were looking at essentially repeating those classes a few years after graduation.
And it’s not exaggerating to say that most of the people I know well who did the undergraduate business major option wished later they had taken their chance to do something else at 18. They talk about the intangible benefits of their liberals arts classes – the ability to write, to speak another language, to comment on the art in the interviewer’s office at the place where they got their first job – as the things that have really benefited them in the “real world.”
The section of the IHE article that really struck me was this one:
Particularly for first-generation college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, “When you dangle a ‘business major’ in front of a student who is not necessarily sophisticated in her understanding of the strengths of a liberal arts background, she may say, ‘Aha, I want to be successful, I want to go into business, I should be a business major.’…It’s a choice that’s being made without a full understanding of the options that a broader educational focus will provide for you,” Tatum says.
That feels true to me – I know that I told people I was going to law school even after I was pretty sure that wasn’t true because it meant I could get past the “what are you going to do with a history major” question without an argument. I’m sure it is much harder for students whose parents don’t already think the liberal arts are important than it was for me. To a certain extent, this gets back to what I was talking about the other day – we need to figure out how to communicate why these things are important to people outside the academy. And, personally, I think Slings and Arrows is a good place to start with that.