Washington — Just a few statistics tell a compelling story. They speak of the devotion during the past decade to education; of the rise in technical knowledge; and of the struggle for the liberal arts to hold on to a solid place in American society.
In 1972, according to figures compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics, of the thousands of bachelor's degrees awarded, education majors accounted for 196,000.
No other field cleared 100,000. In fact, the next discipline being awarded BA degrees was English literature, at 52,000, followed closely by engineering, with 51,000.
That year, some 48,000 BA degrees were awarded in psychology and 6,000 in philosophy.
What about master's degrees in the same year?
Education, 106,000; engineering, 17,000; English literature, 8,000; psychology, 6,000; and philosophy, 600.
The doctorate? Education, 7,000; engineering, 3,000; English literature, 1, 500; psychology, 2,000; and philosophy, 400.
In 1978, note again the enormous differences.
Education: BA degrees, 136,000; MA, 119,000; and the doctorate, 7,500.
Engineering: BA degrees, 56,000; MA, 16,000; PhD, 2,000.
English literature: BA, 29,000; MA, 6,000; PhD, 1,000.
Psychology: BA, 45,000; MA, 8,000; PhD, 2,500.
Philosophy: BA, 4,000; MA, 560; PhD, 283.
Even with a loss of nearly 60,000 candidates for the BA degree, education still led by a wide margin. As might be expected - given the way the technological society was edging out the industrial revolution - engineering degrees at the bachelor's level were up by 4,000.
English literature, at the bachelor's level, lost some 23,000 graduates; psychology was down 4,000; and philosophy showed a steep drop of 2,000, or a full one-third.
And even more startling is the fact that in 1978 more students graduated with doctorates in education than with doctorates in engineering, English literature, psychology, and philosophy added together.