The Gustavian Weekly

Quit Major-Shaming Me | The Gustavian Weekly

By Emma Schmidtke - Opinion Columnist | September 18, 2015 | Opinion

The tradition of liberal arts education traces its roots back to Ancient Greece.

The tradition of liberal arts education traces its roots back to Ancient Greece.

You want to major in that?” “But what can you actually do with that?” “You know you’re gonna be poor, right?” If you’ve heard any of the following phrases from family, friends, extended relatives, or little old church ladies, you are victim of major-shaming.

No, not major shaming (though it can feel that way after three hours of smiling and gritting your teeth through a grad party), I’m talking about the shock and disapproval that stems from telling any casual acquaintance you’re majoring in Art History, Anthropology, or basically any of the humanities.

I’m not so much bothered by the, “How are you going to pay your student loans with that?” crowd because, let’s be honest, nobody knows how they’re going to pay off their loans.

The people who piss me off the most are the ones who assume some sort of moral superiority over me because I would dare to waste my life and my money on such a frivolous pursuit as English; the people who turn expectantly to my family as if they’re all going to groan in agony over my dismal future.

Because guess what, adult-whose-business-degree-automatically-makes-you-smarter-than-me? This idiotic English major goes to a liberal arts college that teaches its students the value of research. Turns out my knowledge of the techniques of modern poetry doesn’t leave me as destitute as everyone thinks I am.

Yes, I’m at an obvious disadvantage compared to Engineering majors (I mean who isn’t? Those geniuses can cook a pizza without an oven, in their dorm rooms). But the actual employment rates aren’t as obvious as one might assume. A study conducted by Georgetown reveals that unemployment rates for Liberal Arts and Humanities majors are relatively higher because their graduates spread out among multiple industries, meaning multiple areas subject to economic downturn, as opposed to single professions.

When one chooses a major specific to a profession, however, they take a gamble on those numbers, as the current economy’s preferences rise (as with Engineering) and fall (as with Architecture), hardly the job security these two generally respected majors promise.

Majors that appear safe for the moment can be deceiving as well. According to CBS News, five of the 25 least employable majors are in the field of psychology, which is also the fifth most popular major. Try and wrap your psyche around that.

Nor does a wide gap exist between most economics degrees and the humanities. English majors with experience have a 6.2% employment rate, as apposed to 5.4% in Business Economics. Interest and talent seem terrible to waste on less than a percentage of increased employability. Even the infamous Art History major only has an 8.8% unemployment rate, compared to the national average of 5.1%.

Lest any first-years should clutch this paper, hands shaking because nothing is certain or sacred in their education anymore, I have one single piece of advice for planning your future: Talk to your professors.

Don’t listen to some adult who doesn’t even know what the study of linguistics is. Your professors know the field, know what one needs to get ahead. Academics, you’ll find, are much more collaborative than they are competitive, and recruiting more interested, driven people into their field will boost their studies as a whole.

Even a risky major is not a ramen-noodles-till-death sentence. With a few exceptions, unemployment rates dramatically decrease with increases in experience and further education. So how do you become more hirable in the field you love? You continue to pursue the field you love.

So go ahead, adults of my hometown and surrounding suburbs. Disparage my major, but so help me, I will intellectually combat you in my expensive liberal arts school’s newspaper, which you will probably never read. I’m still working on my master revenge plot.

I’m making all this up as I go, like everyone else who’s ever been nineteen and making “real world” choices for the first time. Despite all the debt and uncertainty we face, I want to call on you, fellow Gusties, to pursue your passion and avoid shaming others for theirs. Finding something you love enough to sacrifice for is a rarity in this world and that needs to be celebrated on our campus.

Besides, our generation’s all going to end up living with our parents anyway.