Chapter 2: The Way Less Traveled By

Someone Did Me a Great Disservice by Telling Me an English Major Would Be Useless

*I’m not on my own computer as I post this, so enjoy this pretty Costa Rica sunset photo I happened to have in my Dropbox and pretend it’s relevant.

As much as I love literature, I never considered becoming an English major until now, in the first semester of my senior year.

It’s a bit late for that.

See here’s the deal, I switched my major about sixteen times, officially or unofficially, but being an English major never crossed my mind.  Long before I graduated high school, I had filed “English Major” away into the “Useless” drawer, along with “Philosophy Major,” “Art Major,” and various others.

You see, they told me an English degree is only good to hang on a teacher’s wall.  I don’t even know who “they” are that they could influence me so much: parents, teachers, the media, society?  I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to not major in English based on someone’s advice.  Nevertheless, the influence was so strong that even though I took enough English classes for fun to accidentally achieve a minor, I never once seriously looked at the English major requirements.  And if you haven’t guessed by now, the point is, I wish I had.

My sophomore year, I took a senior-level Shakespeare class that I loved.  I learned a lot not only about analyzing Shakespeare’s work, but also about how to write about literature.  I had to catch on real fast since I had skipped a few levels, but I made it.  This year, I decided to regress to a sophomore-level Survey of World Literature class to get an eagle’s eye view of context, and everything makes so much sense now; nevermind that the expectations are a bit lower than I would expect as a senior.  Looking at the English major (literature emphasis), the required classes would have been wonderful–and possible to fit in with a Spanish major (which has relatively few requirements since people generally double-major).  An English major would have helped me so much with the projects I’m working on now, such as an undergrad English thesis and applying to and English literature-related grad program, not to mention it would have been intellectually stimulating.

But, like I said, it’s too late.

I guess my point here is we need to stop telling people that “useless” majors are useless.  Sure, humanities majors don’t tend to have a job that specifically and exactly matches up with the major, like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors tend to, but as long as a student is aware of that going into the game, he can plan for it.  In other words, instead of telling him not to major in the humanities, or whatever he wants to major in, we should simply warn him in advance that it will take a bit more creative effort to apply the major.  This way, he can plan and discern throughout his college career, and not end up dumbfounded in a graduation gown with a diploma he doesn’t know how to use.


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