Saturday, October 15, 2011

Email: choosing a major

It's easy to ridicule the OWS protesters and to suggest they're entitled, spoiled, and out-of-touch. But I find such ad hominem attacks distasteful and counter-productive. I'm unimpressed with the image the protesters present, but I sympathize with their message: who doesn't want a strong, healthy, employed middle class? I'm especially concerned about the rhetoric regarding choosing a major in university ("Maybe you should have gotten a degree in Biology instead [...]").

I don't think it's reasonable to expect every post-secondary student who wants to get a decent job to study physical sciences, life sciences, business, etc. I think that history, languages, social sciences, and yes, even philosophy or women's studies have value. You shouldn't study something you don't enjoy just so that you might get a job later in life. Learning about literature or culture is not irrelevant. It allows you to understand the world we live in in new ways. I know that a detailed understanding of physics, biology, etc. is also fascinating. Keep in mind that some revered scientific figures also embraced literature and art. Einstein's quotes are as famous as his contributions to physics. Other public intellectuals were scientists and simultaneously artists: Sagan, Asimov, Bill Nye, and many more.

Furthermore, it is possible for the humanities-inclined to study something they're interested in and still wind up employed after they graduate. More teachers, public servants, communicators, librarians, etc. are always needed, and they can make direct use of "soft" majors in their work.

a gainfully employed English major