One common, and rather entertaining, feature of academia is the competition between different areas of academic study. Erik Voeten recently wondered here if academics working in the social sciences envied those working in the hard sciences. Good question. Which department is more legitimate? Which department is most foolish?
Here to answer at least some of this question is Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. Nolan has helpfully, and totally unscientifically, produced a rank of academic studies, by realness. “What makes one field more ‘real’ than another?” Nolan asks. “Don’t act like you don’t know. Come on.” The ranking:
2. Astronomy or other Space Science
8. Biology or other Life Science
9. Foreign language (Useful type)
10. Computer Science
12. Geology or other Earth Science
19. Study of Some Foreign Place or Culture
22. Religion or Theology
25. Foreign Language (Useless type)
26. Political Science
27. Drama or Film
28. Phys Ed, Sports Management or other Major Designed For Athletes
29. Journalism or “Communications”
His list is actually a little longer, but I think 30 is good enough.
Note that “real” does correspond too precisely to academic legitimacy.
There are many, many subjects of study that are much more real (plumbing, hairdressing, automotive repair), practical, and meaningful, but no one thinks these are subjects for serious intellectual inquiry.