Publish Date: 11-19-2014

Section: Forum

Type: SoundOff

Byline: Savannah Nelson

Title: Copy Editor



Word Count: 566

ESE Count: 1

College is a phase of life dedicated to exploring the vast unknown. Students are here to learn and grow and expand their horizons. The last thing anybody needs is to be defensive of their field of study while they’re trying to do so.

And yet, such is the life of the humanities major.

For many students, college is the opportunity to branch out—to learn what piques their interest, delve into newly discovered passions, and earn a degree in an area that they truly love. It’s idealistic, advocating that going to school should be about what the student wants to learn.

But there’s always someone willing to cast out doubts of practicality. And it probably has a lot to do with how we are taught to handle creative thoughts and talents, and this false pretense of what the “real world” means. We are taught that there’s a firm line between logic or math-driven concrete thought and abstract thinking, but when adulthood strikes, only the former is appreciated or called for employment.

Many an art, English, or philosophy major has come into contact with the evils of peers and parents who sneer, “What are you planning on doing with that major?” as if no hope lies in their future outside of classroom walls. Once an engineering student and an English major had a conversation where the question “why don’t you just write a blog instead of go through the hassle of getting that degree?” was asked. Yes, a comparison between a bachelor’s of art—a four-year degree at a university—and an internet blog was made. That kind of superiority complex is thrown at those who study the social sciences all the time, unwarranted.

However, it’s hard-pressed to find that same negative attitude toward those who study business, engineering, or biology.

Why is there this connotation of uselessness around the arts? Or around language? It’s common to overhear conversations about hopeless essays as students turn in their sloppy work, claiming “Go easy on me; I’m not an English major.” In a math class, no one would bother to hand in shoddy work claiming to not be in the mathematics field—it’s taught and emphasized that math is critical for everyone and there are no excuses.

It’s not widely understood that the humanities are studies of human culture, and are just as critical to our progression and existence as the concrete rules of arithmetic and science. For example, language is the most powerful tool of socialization. Creation is essential to avoid stagnation. And honestly, there’s nothing more relevant than the study of us and the world we live in.

Look at many successful figures in American culture, including Mitt Romney—Bain Capital CEO and English major at Brigham Young University. There’s Peter Thiel, 20th century philosophy major at Stanford University and founder/CEO of PayPal. Or Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense and history major at the College of William and Mary. They are proof that “soft” majors are not the preventing factor of success.

What’s worse is that many students studying the humanities are finding themselves apologizing for studying what they love. They sound ashamed when people ask, “Oh really?” and basically accept jobless defeat. As humanities majors, students learn how to think and write, to effectively communicate and have original thought. Stand up and defend yourself. After all, aren’t humanities majors the most qualified to craft sound and convincing arguments?