‘Underwater basket weaving’ isn’t worthless

Some courses invite snap-judgment, but that doesn’t mean they’re without merit.

In a Star Tribune op-ed Monday, Vascular Solutions chief executive Howard Root took it upon himself to pass judgment on the University of Minnesota’s academic rigor.

Root cited recent applicants for his company’s apprenticeship program and cited one recent graduate in particular, whose transcript included many electives. Vascular Solutions opted to leave one position unfilled.

“In reality, the only jobs these college graduates are qualified to perform are the same jobs they could have performed without a college education,” Root wrote. “So that is where they end up working.”

Root blames the University, but the whole op-ed paints a narrative on college students that’s as easy as it is misleading.

The piece makes snap judgments based on course titles, and Root seems to assume entire degrees are built on these courses.

Coincidentally, the Minnesota Daily’s Ronald Dixon discussed some of the same courses in his column Monday. Dixon praised science courses aimed at non-science students, like Sehoya Cotner’s award-winning class Evolution and Biology of Sex.

While that course title may raise eyebrows for Root and others, that doesn’t mean it provides a subpar science education. STEM courses aimed at reaching the humanities-minded are important and can be more difficult to craft than major courses.

The University has given Cotner’s course acclaim, and it would do well to ensure that other similar courses meet her standards. In turn, Root and other employers should take a deeper look before tossing out an applicant’s transcript.