Friday, January 03, 2014

BA versus BS Degrees?

I was in a meeting the other day that most people only dream of. The group was trying to decide what the difference was between a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and a BS (Bachelor of Science) degree.

The answer is, it really varies. It even varies from subject area to subject area. Probably most of the time, the difference is whether you take a language or not.  Physics major with a year of German, BA. Music major with no language, BS.

Does it make sense? Not necessarily. But I don't expect things to make sense. It's one of the secrets to my success. :-)

Actually, at a certain point, the drive to order and standardization can be the enemy of innovation and functionality. In this age, a house of brands is far more likely to survive than a brand of houses, IMO.

I did have a passing thought in this meeting, one that probably would never fly anywhere. But I think running through it gives a sense of the whacky place we're at in education.

Given the education climate--drive to reduce costs, drive to do gen eds online or locally, drive to cut down the number of years--I wondered if the BS degree somewhere might become a "light infantry" degree, shorter than the BA.  BA minus most of the liberal arts = BS.

So the advantage of the BS would be shorter and cheaper. It would focus on the knowledge and skills of a specific discipline.

How would you market the BA then?  You'd say, "A person with a BA is probably going to be a better thinker." "A person with a BA will be better equipped to make ethical decisions." "The BA person will probably do better with interpersonal relationships." "The BA person will likely make a better leader."

Now for the reality check. Do the liberal arts do these things now in our college curricula?  Or do we just make students take a set of courses they perceive to be irrelevant even after they have taken them. If so, then we educators are responsible for killing the liberal arts by making them boring and irrelevant.

I have never questioned the value of the liberal arts in education. I have always questioned the value of how ineffectively we seem to teach them.


Rob McD said...

Is a degree without the liberal arts now an Associates degree? For cost savings, love the idea, wondered the same thing myself?

Ken Schenck said...

Sorry, I mixed it around. I think a house of brands is more likely to survive than a brand of houses.

Peter Kirby said...

Chemistry? BS. History? BA. Math? BS. English? BA.

Christopher C. Schrock said...

I always wondered what the breakdown for BA or BS was. Especially after my wife graduated from IWU with a BS in Fine-Art/Painting! And kudos to IWU. I loved my liberal arts classes--the professors were great--somehow it was communicated that those classes would help build the furniture in the mind for knowledge to sit in. Worked for me. :)

John Eric said...

Mr. Schneck,

Any chance you can address the BAS degree I see some (secular) schools offering... How are BAS degrees viewed in the academic world? Would they, for an example, be acceptable for entrance in to a M.Div program?

John Conner

Ken Schenck said...

The key to normal admission to the seminary in this regard is not the degree but the institution. If the institution is accredited, the BAS should be just fine (I'm speaking informally here, since I don't know your details). We, like other seminaries, also have a process for determining whether a person from an unaccredited institution might be qualified for probationary admission.

I hope that helps! Feel free to email me at