“Unless, of course, you want to go into academia as a career, and then you can study completely impractical things to your heart’s content.”
I disagree. It depends on your course of study. If you’re in science or engineering or business, everything’s practical. Or eventually leads to something practical. If you’re studying Ancient Greek literature, then yes, that’s impractical. Because a literature degree is probably not good for any job other than literature professor.
Addendum: Well, maybe a literature degree could be good for book reviewing for the NYT or being an editor at a publishing house. But the end result is more for entertainment, really. We can live without a book. But it would be really hard to live without a house that won’t collapse on you in two weeks.