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Boru: Liberal Arts degree, useless or not? Please stop with the ignorant assumptions

I am tired of hearing, “What are you gonna do with that?”, “Are you gonna teach?”

I am offended, even though I hate using this word. I am a first-generation university student and I am thankful to my parents for making it possible for me to go to university and be able to graduate, as they did not have the opportunity and the means to do so themselves. If you are from a brown, Black or Asian background, the questions of “What is your degree?” and “What are you going to do with it?” are very familiar, if not completely ingrained in our minds, so much so that we cringe from merely hearing it. It used to be our parents, at least from my experience, who pressured us on what “should have been or should be” our undergraduate major. We had to choose from nursing, medical school, dentistry, engineering, computer science or some other “respectable” major. Now, our colleagues and acquaintances have decided to take on the role of judge, jury and prosecutor when it comes to what path we decide to pursue.

I am a student in the College of Liberal Arts, specifically an English major. Now, you can probably get why I am salty about those questions. I might come off as being unnecessarily defensive against baseless criticism, but I am merely attempting to school those with tunnel vision who seem to be on a quest to chase where the money is, even if they don’t like their jobs. There is nothing wrong with going after what brings you happiness, even if that is a lucrative career, but think again before trying to demean the hard work liberal arts major students put into our studies.

The common denominator I have seen from these commenters is that all they know about liberal arts majors is English, journalism and psychology. They don’t stop to think that the people they are putting down can go on to become authors and philosophers whose books are studied for decades, like the great philosopher John Locke. Journalists who keep us up to date on what is happening around the world with their articulate minds and pursuit of justice. Psychologists who study the human psyche to better understand how we function. People also don’t stop to think that economists and mathematicians are also liberal arts majors. Economists who help us understand how the financial world around us works and great mathematicians like Al-Khawarizmi, the father of Algebra, who left us with a legacy we use to this day.

Liberal arts majors make this world a better place when it comes to understanding humans and catering to our needs and the next generation’s needs. Liberal arts are a legacy we inherit from great minds through history, literature and poetry. History teaches us about our roots and identity. So think again before you demean a liberal arts degree. We are educators, historians, politicians, psychologists, writers, speakers, lawyers and more.

To be fair, even those of us in liberal arts sometimes can’t help but think, “What am I going to do after I graduate?” and to that I say: life is a marathon, not a sprint. Money brings food to the table and shelters us, but it certainly does not buy happiness. Go at your own pace, and learn about life and your values as you figure out what you can contribute to this world.

As students of the liberal arts, we are equipped with all the essential tools necessary to do anything we want and start any type of career. Heck, we can even start our own business and hire people who work for us instead of becoming employees of a company. We are taught how to think and articulate our thoughts eloquently without mincing our words. This is proof that our minds and our tongues are the weapons we need and sufficient to take on any task, big or small.

Life is not a race, so walk at your own pace. And you who speak useless words, worry about your own life, because we have it figured out.

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  • A Gopher
    Sep 30, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    I wonder if the author understands that her parents and friends might be offering cautionary advice? Some fields pay better throughout the field. If the only way to “make it” in your field requires you to on par with the greats then that is a nearly impossible task. Whereas, do you know what they call the lowest scoring graduate in medical school….? Doctor!

  • Gopheralum
    Sep 28, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Certainly we benefit from liberal arts and those who pursue studies of the arts at a high level. Clearly some people have the personality type/love/inclination/fascination or some combination of these that make an arts degree so appealing and kudos to them for pursuing their calling and helping to enlighten the rest of us. Journalists, philosophers, psychologists, educators, and artists of all kinds that are competent and principled are important and I would say necessary for the amazing progress human civilizations have made.

    “Liberal arts” is a bit antiquated. Nowadays, most institutions and individuals make distinctions between “arts” and “sciences” though I consider it a matter of semantics.

    My one criticism of this piece is in regards to the comparisons made. Mentioning John Locke and Al-Khawarizmi to make an appeal to greatness or authority in arts seems far-fetched; similar to suggesting someone someone should consider dropping of out college because “look at Gates, Jobs, and Ellison” not considering the aptitude and skills these outliers already had.

    Liberal arts are integral to our world. However, paying such a large amount of money to obtain a 4-year degree in some fields doesn’t seem totally logical to me. For studies that require infrastructure, physical presence, sterile environments, etc. I think there is some justification. In my opinion the necessity of a 4-year degree is oversold in most areas humanities and many liberal arts degrees being the majority.

    For many reasons, I take issue with what I think is Luul’s heavily outside-influenced perspective. She’s absolutely correct that it’s best to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today.

    Defend your skills, not you credentials.