(New column for R&B brought to you at an early release date because I figured you should get some fun incentives for following me on this blog that consists of mostly breakfast foods and It’s Always Sunny .gifs):
One phrase you hear teenagers toss around fairly often is, “I’m losing faith in humanity.” A phrase less commonly heard, but according to a recent New York Times article, one becoming increasingly more true, is that college-age students are also losing faith in humanities when the time comes to choose a major.
On the surface, this issue might not seem pressing, but when interest in humanities majors has been cut in half since 1970, there is something to be discussed. Why the drastic decrease? The article cites reasons such as fear of securing a job, which (especially in recent years) is a very legitimate concern. Something college graduates are slowly discovering is that a college degree is no longer a means of competitive leverage on a resumé, and in a way, graduate school is the new college degree in terms of job security. None of this is new information, but what this lack of interest in humanities majors highlights is the apparent next step (in college students’ eyes) toward finding a job is specialized skills in math and sciences.
This is rather depressing, but also an indicator of how college education is now primarily a means to an end, rather than an experience of pursuing a dream or discovering new ways to think. One of the more poignant statistics the article presented claimed most students who enter college wanting to major in humanities, such as English or History, end up switching to something else. I could be wrong, but I doubt this change of heart is a result of sudden contempt toward the subjects of English or History. I think students are becoming too familiar with phrases like, “be realistic” and “what are you going to do with a degree in that?” Maybe there would be more answers to that question if more students would stick around long enough to find out.
I understand that science, engineering, and mathematics are important fields, and considering this new age of technology, there is constant need for people skilled in those areas. We need to understand, however, that competence in these fields is not the sole indicator of intelligence or the ability to have a decent career.
We need scientists and engineers, but we also need writers, historians, philosophers, and artists. More than anything, we need people who are passionate and unafraid to pursue what they love to do, despite whether or not it’s practical. What this essentially boils down to is the need for students who, when asked, “what are you going to do with a History degree?” are comfortable responding, “I don’t know yet,” without letting the question scare them into doing something else.