What college students should study

It’s back to school time and Stephen Walt has some suggestions for what any student aspiring to a career in foreign policy or international relations should learn about while in college. I thought that it was a good list for people going into any field of study and so pass it along.


  1. Chiroptera says

    I would like to add that taking and passing courses in these fields aren’t just important because they give one specific technical expertise that may be relevant to a particular career.

    Taking a wide variety of courses as part of a wide liberal arts education and doing well in them shows that one is pretty “smart,” that is, one has some pretty impressive intellectual ability that allows one to learn quickly and to be a good analyst when presented new and unfamiliar problems.

    I want to mention this, because I and my colleagues get a lot of whining (“why do we have to know this,” “when will we ever use this”) from students in the GE level courses that we teach. I think that if the only justification you can give for a course or a subject involves its specific use, then you’ve missed the whole point of a liberal arts education.

    This isn’t meant to be a criticism of this post, or an indication that I disagree with the main point of the post. Certainly, I agree that university majors have to do some degree of specific technical training (otherwise we wouldn’t have majors!), and mentioning the specific utilitarian use of the subject is part of the justification for learning it.

  2. Corvus illustris says

    For US students: let’s insist on history and geography if nothing else, because when the kids come out of HS (where “history” too often means nothing earlier than 1750, all in North America) they’re lost in time and space. Push at least one foreign language not only for cultural reasons but because there’s a huge amount of science that’s only available in international scientific languages other than English. For the overachievers: the last time I was on the relevant committee, Phi Beta Kappa still required foreign-language profiency at the 2nd-year college level.

  3. Chiroptera says

    For US students: …when the kids come out of HS….

    Heh. Boy, those words themselves are usually enough to get me going on a long, loud rant.

  4. Anonymouse says

    This is a great article! I shared it with my rising-high school senior. Studying these areas would create a well-rounded, knowledgeable student.

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