The Gustavian Weekly

The worry of the liberal art

By Joe Robbins - Opinion Columnist | December 9, 2016 | Opinion

Robbins emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box and taking the time to slow down.

Robbins emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box and taking the time to slow down.

Philosophy, English, Classics, History.

What do all these majors have in common? Existential dread. And why not?

We learn to question what we are looking at, to discern the truth from someone else’s opinion.

In the world we find ourselves walking, the idea of doing anything but specializing one’s major into a job by graduation is a scary one.

Law school! Graduate school and teach!

Those are options, but the world does not need any professional book-readers, expert paper-writers or good question-askers.

It needs people with certifications!

It needs young folks with vocational training!

It needs doctors, and lawyers, and people who know code, and YOU need a fall back (plan B, just in case, safety hatch).

You, holder of a liberal arts degree, need to make some moves, get the right internship, shake the right hands, or have the right trust fund, otherwise you will have a rough go of the real world.

The world needs professionals, but it also needs burger-flippers, car salesmen, mid-level managers, and that is where you will end up; while those that put the work in and got the hard degree in college become successful.

We know who the successful are, we do not have to look hard for them.

They are the poor, battered souls huddled in corners of the library from when they are let out of their evening labs, till the factory whistle sends them home at 1AM.

The gloomy, determined heroes trudging around campus carrying their bodyweight in textbooks strapped to their backs, and caffeine in their hands.

The anxious, sleep-deprived, malnourished prisoners of the biology department, of the physics professor, and the Computer Science lab.

They absolutely deserve the success they enjoy in life, and the respect they are given.

But the liberal arts students? They just should have known better than to take the easy road.

Except I am not so certain.

Technology and ever-increasing population rates will always work together to create a more efficient, more automated world, requiring individuals with the expertise to operate and maintain the facets of this automation.

However, technology and automation are efficient because they require less human capital to run. This means holders of technical degrees are entering.

I had a government teacher in high school who once said, “They call your generation the ’Information Generation’ not the ‘Informed Generation’.”

He was referring to the fact that now, for the first time in human history, almost all of the products of contemporary and ancient human thought are a click away from the Regular Joe. Yet it seems as though the millennial generation is making as much of a mess of the world as every other generation of twenty-somethings has.

We voted as carelessly as past generations, listened to music that was just as shocking, and cared just as little.

This fact about our reality, our world, is what I believe hails good news to us liberal arts people.

The world is going a certain direction, to be sure.

What is also sure, is economics.

In the new world of automation, tech will become common, and humanism, valuable.

While technical information can evolve exponentially faster and faster, human understanding of that information, or interest in it, does not increase so easily.

Humans are interested in each other, their attentions drawn to art, music, emotion, and intimacy, their focus distracted by dreams, questions, and ideas.

Humans understand what they discover for themselves; they comprehend only what they can freely explore.

I say, do not despair, fellow philosophy students, artists, dancers, history-lovers, freedom-fighters, and idea-havers.

When the world becomes efficient and precise, it needs us to muddle the lines and question the boundaries.

When the world becomes increasingly fast and dynamic, it needs us to slow down, and remember old times.

Worry about getting the job, and stress about making the tuition payments, but never forget that the world needs you.

Let your dread be of the dull and ordinary, but never question your worth, or the value of your ideas, your art.

Instead, fight on. Question all. Succeed.