Millennials and Major Shaming
Millennials have a problem with bashing college majors that are stereotypically “unmarketable” amongst ourselves and by others who are older and self professed to be wiser when it comes to what degrees yield jobs and money. The idea that college majors that are related to computers, math, and the sciences are the most lucrative is extremely problematic and archaic. Pushing “practical” jobs like business administration, registered nurse, and human services, is also a harmful epidemic. It’s one thing if this is really what you want to do. You’ve invested your time and money after all, and like it or not when we’re in college we’re adults. Even if those who aren’t millennials would refuse to see us that way. However, when the idea that your only purpose is to make money, the narrative that your parents and authority figures are giving you, something is wrong.
We do not attend university and receive higher education to get a job. We could do that with a high school degree. Many jobs do not require 4 years of accredited education meanwhile, a career is something different altogether. We attend colleges and universities in order to hone a craft or find what we love to obtain a career. After all, the difference between a job and a career is that the purpose of the former is simply to earn money, while the purpose of the latter is to make money doing what you love. This is not an impossible ideal or an unrealistic standard. Many majors, especially in the humanities have been the punchline for years to jokes about not being successful after graduation. You majored in English? How’s that job as a Starbuck’s barista treating you? You were a Poli-Sci major? How was it moving back in with your parents after graduation? That was a real joke made by John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight” during his episode on pharmaceutical companies marketing to doctors. The joke was put in after a pharmaceutical representative told a story about a doctor asking her how to proceed about a difficult case. “I’m a Political Science major! And she’s asking me” the woman said which prompted Oliver’s joke. (Similar quips have been made all over the internet and through television and movie history. Take this College Humor sketch on modern spiritualism mainly concerning millennials in which a stoner reciting high thoughts from his Moleskin notebook is said to have used the best of his liberal arts degree.) Clearly the example showed that no, the pharmaceutical rep was not qualified to give medical advice, but that does not mean that her degree was wasted simply because she wasn’t applying it to her job at the time. It’s a tired cliché in comedy that many non celebrities often repeat.
The significant thing is that this is a stereotype that’s taken pretty seriously. Online publications have put out numerous articles about the news on the most lucrative college degrees or the least, but you rarely see articles from major websites like Forbes that give tips on how to utilize your major. A lot more often than not, many individuals won’t find out how “lucrative” and truly marketable their degree is until they actually research it. Even then that’s largely due to websites that dedicate themselves to that purpose such as Dear English Major. I myself am an English major (with a double minor in Literary Writing and Shakespearean and Renaissance Literature) and I learned the most of my job market from Dear English Major. Professors will know of course especially at Oglethorpe University where I study. English professors know how valuable being able to write well is and that that’s something companies desperately need. Oglethorpe is a testament to the fact that “unmarketable majors” aren’t so. When I was interviewing for full ride scholarships last year I spoke with an alumni who was a philosophy major who got employed by Google. His philosophy background gave him the understanding and people skills that others simply did not have. I would say that’s a shining example of the value of a liberal arts education. Being an English major comes with the assumption that I’ll either end up working on a never ending novel at Starbuck’s while on break from my shift or a teacher. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching, it’s unfair to pigeonhole anyone into a stereotypically “practical” career. This leads to the underlying problem. Major shaming largely affects those who are studying the arts and humanities and that is a real problem.
This affected me in school when my math teacher junior year had a rant in class about how the money was in engineering and that we needed to get into what would make good money. I was disappointed then and while I was happy for my female classmates when many of them stated that they were going to college to study and become nurses I couldn’t help thinking to myself that they were falling into stereotypes of gender roles and falsely presented practical money making jobs. That disappointed me and I am disappointed every time the “that degree is an obvious waste of money” argument is put forth in real life or on social media. It is not a teacher’s place to tell their students what they should do with their lives and it’s saddening and just plain wrong that society presents “math and science good=money” and “arts and such bad=starving” as a commonplace narrative.
This brings me back to the fact that the underlying issue is an ignorant disdain for the arts and humanities. A modern defense of poesy arose when it was first announced that the National Endowment for The Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities was under attack. We should not have to defend art. In any of its forms. It should go without saying that my writing is just as powerful as your ability to work out equations and complete physics exams on your way to becoming a doctor. I can be a doctor too. A P.H.D. and an M.D. do not exist with a true hierarchy. It should go without saying that the study of history and of past and present cultures is undoubtedly valuable even compared to your business studies B.A. and MBA. My M.F.A. wouldn’t be any less of a feat. It should go without saying that major and degree shaming will get you nowhere especially if you have little to no experience in the academic sphere. If a baby boomer who never set foot on a campus and knows nothing about the job market they’re criticizing then they should respectfully stay out of the conversation.
Major shaming should not occur by fellow millennials, fellow grads or undergrads, or those who aren’t millennials. It’s problematic, outdated, and just plain dumb. Let’s retire this joke and all move on with our lives. Finals are here. We have a lot more to worry about.