Dear Doubter of My Desired Degree,
You aren’t the first to tell me that there is no place in the world for English majors.
During my Freshman year of college, I spoke to my then-history professor about my ideal career and college goals. Upon learning that I wanted to declare a major in English, the short, fat, balding, graying, red faced man chuckled.
“My son was an English major…now he’s a waiter on a cruise ship.”
Well just because your son was a failure doesn’t mean I’ll be.
In retrospect, that was rude. I’m sure his son is a great guy and an excellent waiter.
But little did I know that this would be the first of many people to tell me that my degree is either useless or only useful for instructing others. Don’t get me wrong, I have a gigantic respect for teachers. My mother is a teacher, some of my greatest mentors as a child were teachers…I was raised among them. Seeing my mother stressed out over grading, or frustrated with a reckless child–it means that I’ve never seen a teacher as anything less than a human being.
It’s also something I just don’t want to do.
“So…you don’t want to be a teacher,” you confirm with a frown, “You want to be a writer? They don’t make a lot of money, you know.”
First of all, Person Without a Face, don’t let the idea of the American Dream fool you. Not every choice involves making money. I’d much rather have a major I love, and make an average living, than have a major I hate that’s financially promising. Some of the worst professionals in the world exist because they care less about the job and more about the money and perks.
Second of all, think outside the box a bit. English majors are so much more than just writers and teachers. Take the website you’re reading this on, for instance. If this website and its features contained multiple spelling and grammar errors, you would find it far less credible. Who do you think proofreads every word? Let’s think a bit bigger.Everyone wants to be a lawyer, a scientist, a politician, a doctor. Think of how many people would be discredited if you found out that they couldn’t spell words like “definitely” or couldn’t differentiate between “there,” “their,” and “they’re?” Or “here” and “hear.” “Where” and “Were?”
Even if you claim you wouldn’t care about misspellings, deep down you would…just a little bit.
Naturally, I don’t feel that it’s my duty to prove anything to anyone who doubts the worth of my future degree. But as I approach my graduation, more and more people are telling me to pursue my Masters degree: specifically people who aren’t paying for my education. When I ask why they think I should go for my Masters, all they can say is that “it looks good.”
Maybe I want to see what I can accomplish in the here and now. Maybe I want to get to a point where I’m well established in my preferred profession, and therefore am able to move up while simultaneously paying for it myself. I don’t doubt that a Masters isn’t important. But c’mon.
Nonetheless, the English degree (like an art degree, film degree, music degree, fashion degree) is so much more than just creating things to look/sound pretty. The value in my education shouldn’t be dictated by how conventionally and ostentatiously productive I look to you.
We can’t all be scientists and politicians.
Get Off My Back
P.S. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of all the professions an English major can have
Film & Screenwriting
Social Media Management
Technical Writing & Editing
2 thoughts on “Dear Doubter of My Desired Degree”
I heard many of the same remarks during my time in college. People have gotten away from seeing higher education as a means for personal growth and enrichment. They see it now as a step PURELY towards making money. That MIGHT explain why colleges and universities are so expensive: maybe the “haves” want to keep it all in the family, so to speak.
Mel: when I was in school, my history teacher told me that history teachers do not make much money. Tertiary education is now so expensive its more like a business than an education. The saying that if you work on your passion you will get rewarded – not just monetary but also personal development speaking.