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College in the 1980s: Careerism Vs. Intellectualism

January 28, 1986

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Women outnumber men more than 2 to 1 among ″intellectuals″ attending college while men hold almost as high a ratio among ″careerists,″ says a Stanford University study published today.

Asian-Americans, blacks and Hispanics rank higher than whites among ″strivers″ but children of doctors join those of blue-collar workers as the biggest groups of ″strivers,″ according to the study.

The four-year study of 400 randomly selected Stanford students, ″Careerism and Intellectualism Among College Students,″ explored how undergraduates make academic and career decisions.

″Who would have thought that over a mere decade or so careerism would replace radicalism as the central concern of educators?″ wrote Herant A. Katchadourian, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and sociologist John Boli.

″The dominant image of the 1960s college student was a disheveled, surly, and alienated youth tearing away at the fabric of higher education. The 1980s image is a tidy, cheerful, and self-centered student milking higher education for all it is worth to get ahead in the world.

″Such stereotypes are misleading if generalized, but they are not meaningless if they capture the spirit of the times.″

In the study, the authors divided students into four categories: careerists, intellectuals, strivers and unconnected.

The researchers had expected students high in careerism would be low in intellectualism, and vice versa, but found that the two atitudes were not mutually exclusive or necessarily in conflict.

″This is one of our most important findings,″ they wrote.

They suggest that efforts to stimulate interests in liberal education need to be directed more toward men, and that women may need more guidance in career planning.

Careerists come from all ethnic backgrounds, usually from upper-middle- and middle-class families. Their fathers are often businessmen or professionals, and family emphasis on career success strongly influences these students.

Throughout college, careerists remain relatively fixed in their purpose. If their plans change, they are more likely to switch into one of the four standard professions: business, law, medicine or engineering.

Intellectuals’ families are generally of very high socioeconomic status. Their fathers often hold doctoral-level degrees, and many are doctors, professors or corporate executives.

Ethnic minority students are unlikely to be in this group; when they are high on intellectualism, they are more often ″strivers.″

Intellectuals pursue writing, journalism, the arts and teaching more often than other groups, and are less likely to go into business, law or medicine. Women show these tendencies more than men.

Strivers tend to come from low socioeconomic families, with more fathers in clerical and blue-collar occupations than any other group. Strivers have weaker high school backgrounds than other types, and have lower math and verbal test scores.

Students in the ″unconnected″ category tend to come from very high or low social status familes, rather than middle-class backgrounds, and have the strongest academic backgrounds. The ″unconnected″ make a wide variety of career choices, more by default than by active choice, and feel less certain of their career choice than any other student type.

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