Originally Posted by erictheobscure
That kind of simplified model overlooks the massive amounts of infrastructure and patterns of social behavior that not only reinforce this behavior but also instill it at an early age. And due to this kind of widespread, deeply ingrained popularity, sports actually gets funding from indirect or even partly involuntary sources. Tax money goes into building projects for sports arenas all the time. At a simpler level, even people who don't like sports probably get ESPN bundled with their basic cable packages. Maybe there are ways to opt out of ESPN while getting basic cable, but I bet most consumers don't raise a fuss even if they don't like sports because they just figure that, hey, we're a society that loves sports.
Don't forget all of the required taxpayer-funded gym classes that every takes up through high school. They provide a great place for kids to learn about various sports, discover which they are good at and which they enjoy, all without having to invest in a bunch of equipment (or even special shoes for individual sports). Or all of the parks district leagues that benefit from the local tax base.
There was an article in Forbes about a year ago lamenting the loss of shop class in CA and how it was only going to further compound the problem of a lack of qualified entrants into the skilled trades (as well as cut off potential artists/craftsmen who might develop an interest in working with those materials). They tried to make the point that the Physical Education requirement props up the professional sports industry by providing early training and selection to kids and that we should be doing the same for jobs that the country actually needs (and which any random student is infinitely more likely to actually pursue). I don't entirely buy it...but I don't disagree that gym class provides early training for both the sports audience (who can appreciate the game having learned the rules and played it) and players.
Originally Posted by erictheobscure
(FWIW: my current place of employment, which certain has humanities requirements for all undergrads, has to turn away about 85% of the people who apply. So maybe I'll be less sanguine when, instead of turning away the vast majority--see what I did there--of people who want what we're offering, we have to go out and lure people into taking our services. Also, I'm sure you think it's perfectly clear what "this stuff" and "really worthwhile" mean. I don't think it's clear; those are questions that I'm particularly interested in; and "this stuff" is pretty malleable and people in my field are actively shaping it so that "this stuff" includes ideas and topics and media that are interesting to a lot of people. Not me though--I stick to my stodgy stuff.)
My thought on this is that I'll agree that average joe society has largely dismissed deep research in the humanities. But there is still apparent value in a rounded education that includes the humanities. In order to get instructors who can thoroughly teach it, you need people with a deep understanding and desire to pick this stuff apart--they aren't going to be happy just stopping at a certain level of knowledge and teaching (it might work for grade school teachers who teach a pretty basic curriculum, but not for higher level stuff).
The research funding is part of the cost we pay to have those professors available. They may not teach anything as in depth as their research to undergrads filling a requirement, but the research is what keeps them there and their research may well be something that does get taught to those students 50 years from now (after all, my 1st year physics class touched on quantum mechanics and all sorts of things that were just detailed minutia 50 years ago).
These costs are partially covered with government aid, in the same way we cover basic scientific research...nobody sees an immediate profit in it and is willing to make investments, but I'd argue it is still something we want taking place in our country.