MVHS grads focus on future jobs

College plans are driven by career goals, liberal arts studies secondary

As Mountain View High School's class of 2012 marched over the synthetic turf of Carl Anderson Field in their black caps and gowns on June 1, they were all smiles. If any were worried about graduating into the fourth year of a recession, they didn't show it.

But even if the 434 Mountain View High School graduates were focusing on their accomplishments, some of them have already begun to take the steps they hope will ensure their economic security in the years to come.

Before taking their final steps as high school students, three soon-to-be MVHS graduates talked to the Voice about their college plans. All three are set to begin studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math -- STEM, as it is called in education circles. None of them plans to focus much on the liberal arts.

These two young men and one young woman are evidence of a trend in higher education, which values career-oriented, vocational training over the study of literature, philosophy, history and the arts -- the humanities.

In Fyodor Dostoyevski's 1864 novel, "Notes From Underground," the narrator rails against social scientists of his age for applying logic and the scientific method to their thinking about humanity -- arguing that it is impossible to describe the human condition mathematically and that mankind is inherently illogical.

Mountain View High School graduating senior Kamron Sarhadi has never read "Notes From Underground" and probably won't when he heads to U.C. Davis in the fall.

Writing assignments often seem tedious to him, he says, and while he does read for pleasure occasionally, "it's never been a huge part of my life."

Science and math have always been his thing, he says. A degree in one of the STEM fields is bound to give him a leg up over those of his peers who study the arts or humanities, he says.

"It's a way bigger risk," he reasons, referring to an acting or philosophy degree. "You're obviously not guaranteed a job out of college. I admire anyone who pursues their passion, but it's the whole idea of whether you're investing in something that's really going to pay off in the future."


Sarhadi's utilitarian, career-oriented view of his future academic career is likely mirrored by a great many of his classmates -- at least if New Yorker writer Ken Auletta's observations of the attitudes of Stanford students have any parallels in the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District.

Auletta's recent article, "Get Rich U," highlights the connection between businesses and Stanford University and asks whether the school is too focused on turning out businessmen and -women, whether the students are too focused on making their first million and if not enough time is spent studying the classics and asking existential questions. A total of eight graduating seniors from the district -- four from each MVHS and LAHS -- were accepted to the prestigious Peninsula university this year.

Craig Marker, who addressed the MVHS graduating class along with Sarhadi at the June 1 ceremony, has been accepted to U.C. San Diego and plans to pursue a degree in computer science.

"There are a lot of job opportunities in computer science, which is always a plus," Marker says. "To major in a field that is math-oriented or science-oriented, I feel like I can do anything I want." But, like Sarhadi, he insists that his decision wasn't solely career oriented. "I've always loved math and always been good in math."

Though he may have a stronger interest in STEM subjects, Marker is still planning to take some humanities courses in college. He doesn't want to be so focused on one subject that he is blind to everything else.

"I want to stay broad," he says. "I think having an understanding of the humanities is important -- not being ignorant. But I definitely think majoring in broad studies that don't have an obvious application in the real world can put students in a poor position."

With the world in the midst of another severe economic downturn, it is hard to find flaws in Sarhadi and Marker's logic. Why wouldn't they pursue degrees in fields that will give them a greater chance of landing a job when they graduate?

Then again, if the humanities teach us what it means to be human, what are students who disregard the liberal arts missing? Are art and culture being replaced with cold, steely logic? Is it more important to pursue money than it is to wonder about the meaning of life?

Helping people

Sarah Benett, an incoming premed student at Johns Hopkins University, doesn't think so. Like Sarhadi and Marker, she says that she was "always a math and science person." But for her, medicine isn't merely a smart career choice. "I wanted to help people," she explains.

In addition to studying at Johns Hopkins, Benett also plans to play soccer. Originally she wanted to pursue her passion at a Division 1 school, but she ultimately decided against it for a number of reasons -- not the least of which is that she will be getting a much better education at Johns Hopkins (a Division 3 school) than she would have at any of the Division 1 schools she had considered.

All three teens say they have passions that aren't related to science, technology, math or engineering. Sarhadi likes to make hip-hop music, and Marker said he has always enjoyed public speaking. But each view education as a venture capitalist might view a group of startup companies -- as a series of potential investments. And, in true Silicon Valley fashion, all three want to get the most out of their investments.

They say they are optimistic. If they make wise investments now, all three say they will have time to do unplug down the road and enjoy penning a clever rap or kicking the soccer ball. "Life is long," Marker says. "You'll find happiness in whatever you do."

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Mountain View High School's Class of 2012

Heidi Diane Aguilar

Maria Fernanda Aguilar

Tara M. Ahi

Jessica Lineth Alarcon

Brenda Altun Hernandez

Claire Charlotte Amsden

Theresia Andrean

Emily Madeleine Andrew

Sarah Elisabeth Antonsson

Heidi S. Aronson

Gustavo Arredondo

Dylan Eli Auerbach

Kira Elena Bacsi

Alexander Baek

Ryan E.K. Baer

Zachary Philip Baier

David Harold Baird

Isabella Bandeira de Mello

Cheyenne Kuulei Barela

Benjamin Jacob Barton

Joe Aric Beamon Jr.

Jazmine Beltran

Sarah Elizabeth Benett

Collin Mark Bengle

Makena Catherine Berchem

Eric Charles Berg

Jun Bernardo

Foster William Bettman

Elly Whitney Biggs

Nathaniel Ethan Bischoff

Ian C. Bogle

Timothy William Bommarito

Nicholas Werner Bondy

Jacob Steele Bosset

Wesley Augustus Brandemuehl

Troy William Briggs

Samuel Johnson Brigham

Allan John Brooks

Peter Nicholas Bulash

Richard K. Burch

Thomas S. Burch

Michael Patrick Butler

John Samuel Byrom

Samuel Evan Caber

Candace Briana Call

Nelsi Marcela Candanoza

Martin Benjamin Capati

Erik Nathan Caragan

Kelsey Culpepper Carlson

Sam Isaac Carmel

Iva Celan

Ana Maria Cerna

Steven Watson Chakerian

Jerry Chang

Justin Hum Chang

Tina Chang

Marisa Anne Chao

Catherine Chen

Michael S. Chen

Thomas Guan Chen

Steven Yuchen Chou

Alice Wing See Chow

Deanna May Chung

Weronika Teodozja Ciok

Dylan Scott Collins

Robert Jin Comstock

Klisha Tupoukolotolu Cook

Misty Dominque Cunanan

Paul Michael Javier Custodio

Bryan David Daetz

Colin Shea Daley

Zachary Parker Daniloff

Kayla Christine Davila-Elrite

Audrey Wen De Guzman

Yoseline Gabriela De La Riva Camacho

Daniel De La Torre

Brian Jeffrey DeAngelis

Senem Marie Degerli

Arian Bahram Dehnow

Cornelius Francis Dempsey IV

Andrea Desgrousilliers

Mariateresa Di Nunzio

Emily Dietz

Raymon Trey Dinco

Oscar Loera Dominguez

Valeria Dominguez

Qingya Seika Dong

Lena Donner

Sarah Frances Drew

Marie Garance Dubuisson

Shannon Nicole Duong

Tori Ngoc Duong

Ehrenstrom Xia Elder

Spencer Reed Elman

Christina Anne Eliopoulos

Elizabeth Tenaya Ende

Austin James Evans

Austin James Farmer

Nicole Taka Seifollahi Farr

Alexandra Ester Farrales

Erica H Fischer-Colbrie

Rachel Elizabeth Fish

Clark S. Fisher

Kyle Sterling Fitz

Jasmine Roxanna Flake

Kateryna Fomenko

Brandon William Forrest

Caleb Thomas Fowler

Michael Cary Francisco

Vanille Celine Fricker

Derrick Douglas Frieson

Yuping Fu

Justin James Gabbard

Alex F. Galioto

Paloma Jazmin Galvan

Jingze Gao

Anna Alexandrovna Garachtchenko

Benjamin Elliott Garber

Yvette Mercedes Garcia Esquivel

Joseph Fu Seng Garvin

Gerardo Gatica

Isaiah D. Gayles

Aaron James Gee

Brian Patrick Gerard

Jessica Lina Ghanma

Daniel John Girerd

Beatrice Goh

Anna Lee Goldberg

Melissa Consuelo Gomez

Raquel Lisette Gomez

Valerie Aurora Gordon Gutierrez

Monica Lee Goulette

Franklin Paul Grabowski

Avery Grimes Farrow

William Frederick Groethe

David Christopher Grubb

Matthew A. Gruspe

Cristina Idalia Guardado

Jorge Angel Gutierrez

Viria Elena Guzman

Dor Gvirtsman

Samuel Travis Hacker

Eunice Haeja Hahn

Tyler Bryce Halsted

Kenneth Robert Hampel

Brittany Anne Harper

Alyssa Ann Hartje

Megan Abigail Hartney

Thomas James Hartshorn

Brandon E. Hayes

Rachel Hayward

Rafael Hermosilla Casado

Sophia Orzano Heye

Adelaide Amy Hill

Sean Jeremy Hinson

Amanda Elise Hirsch

Sophie Ngoc-Hanh Ho

Laura Christine Hofen

Brittany Anne Howard

Bonnie Evelyn Huff

Dominic John Hugyik

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Ashwin Mohan Jaini

Alexander Nils Johansson

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Wesley Kennedy

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Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm

We can and should return to the day when there was more public funding for careers in the Arts and Social Services. We should be able to provide enough jobs to keep both STEM fields and Liberal Arts fully employed. We've just forgotten how it used be.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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