Abstract : Thomas C. Leonard presents an intellectual history of the Progressive Era from the perspective of economists. It is hard to understate the influence this group had in developing Progressive ideas. Leonard brilliantly details how Progressive economists wielded enormous influence not only in spreading ideas about traditional economic concepts, but also ideas and theories that influenced political and civil liberties. For example, the Progressives gave us the social science professor, the scholar-activist, social worker, muckraking journalist, and expert government advisor. All of these reform-vocations, according to Leonard, sought to replace the invisible hand of the market with the visible hand of the administrative state. In short, Leonard’s book is a must-read for everyone remotely interested in political economy.
The reason I went for my MLA (graduated in June 1997) was because I was fascinated by the subject matter. Has it paid off for me financially? No. In fact, I am no longer even employed. I have never even paid off my student loans, nor do I believe that will ever happen. Do I regret earning that MLA? No. I got mine because I had questions about many events I had been involved in during my 10 years of military service, and just what was happening around me in society. I did achieve a greater understanding of all of these factors through studying history.
Does our higher education system need an overhaul? Absolutely. The focus in higher education runs to the small. Learning more and more about less and less has produced a generation of Mark Twain style experts, who rely on their post-graduate life to get their broader education. However, those disciplines learned in earning an MLA often prove invaluable in broadening one’s education afterwards. Learning how to learn appears to be the single, greatest lesson one can learn in going for the advanced degree. Unfortunately, if you are looking for monetary return, one should forgoe college altogether as technical schools have a much greater return on their dollars invested.
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