Between tutoring students in ULM’s Foreign Language Lab this Monday, I picked up the latest edition of The Hawkeye left behind by someone. Thumbing through the pages, my eyes landed on the article about the best and worst majors. Are we really going to try and quantify majors, I thought to myself. Yes, it turns out, we were.
The article was more of the same. If you want to find a job, major in pharmacy or nursing or construction and so on. Reading this didn’t unsettle me, but the article didn’t stop there. It went on to advise against majoring in things such as English, Sociology, and the Arts in general. Here we go again, I said to myself.
Being not only a Liberal Arts major but a double major, I’m annoyed by people asking what I’m majoring in. “I’m a Modern Languages major,” I’ll say while waiting for their face to contort. Or I’ll say, “I’m an English major studying creative writing,” much to the same response. Or if I’m really feeling it, I’ll say, “I’m an aspiring poet,” or better yet, “I’m an aspiring French poet.” I haven’t actually said the latter in fear of causing inquirers’ heads to combust with disbelief.
Yes, if people are strictly looking for a job, if they are looking to have pools where they can do backstrokes through waves of cash, if they are looking for something safe, then the aforementioned majors such as nursing and pharmacy are great choices. I am not naïve enough, though, to believe there aren’t people who can find fulfillment from these careers, nor do I believe all people have an innate need for fulfillment from their careers in general. All my nursing student friends need not get upset. I applaud their efforts in creating the life they so choose. All I ask from the publishers of this article is not to marginalize those who might feel differently.
The Arts always suffer when the economy is weak. No one publishes “don’t major in this” articles when the job market is running sufficiently. But in times of economic distress, are we really to expect people of the Arts to suspend their interests and shove them into the medical field? Do we really want a poet handling our prescription fulfillments at Walgreens or a great painter or photographer or cellist handling our company’s tax returns?
The Liberal Arts community has a responsibility to manage expectations in regards to careerism with their students–a responsibility they do not take lightly and perform well in doing so. What they do not need is more articles trying to marginalize and downgrade their importance. Yes, one does not simply find a job with some degrees immediately after graduation, but there are those who are not simply looking for jobs. There are those who are unafraid to look a bad economy and an ever-shrinking job market in the eye and proclaim they will not sell out. There are those who still opt for their dreams and interests over statistical probabilities. This is, after all, a university and not a vocational school.