This article is admittedly one-sided, but it does point out some of the themes of the current political season, when basic research is derided as unnecessary pork barrel spending.
When I was in college, I was required to at least take one class in a number of areas, including the arts and science/math. I see the wisdom of this approach the older I get. Too many people only know their their own area and nothing else. And too many other people have a very shallow overview of many topics, but no deep knowledge in area. And too many people don't read. One thing on TV that is fascinating in a depressing way is when Jay Leno has his Jay Walking segments, where he goes out and interviews people on the street, including teachers. The amount of basic ignorance of our government, history, and life around us is astounding!