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College Majors to Avoid + Rebuttal

with 5 comments

And back to the work itself

tumblr_mhvbne8hNk1qbcporo1_1280-02082013Good design often has this effect on me: it makes me want to find and do the work I am meant to find and do. Moving quickly through the many architecture or art or photography blogs out there also reminds me of what vision looks like when carried out. Vision alters our perceptions of the physical world and sometimes alters the physical world itself. And that is no small thing.

Yesterday I found myself in disagreement with the Burnt-Out Adjunct (whose too-infrequent posts I eagerly await and enjoy) who wrote that liberal arts studies should be more corollary than central to a college degree. Pisspoorprof was reflecting on another of these “ten worst” articles that pop up from time to time. This time it was Yahoo! Education touting the Four Foolish Majors to Avoid if you are trying to reboot your career.

Liberal arts degrees were the #1 opportunity killer with philosophy a close #2 opportunity killer. By the way, I cannot help but note that the entire article is an advertisement for the continuing services of Yahoo! Education.

As a holder of an undergrad degree in philosophy I both agree and disagree.

  • Yes: no one hires a college grad to resolve deep-seated teleology questions (one does that on one’s own time). But to his credit, the VP at Honeywell who gave the OK to hire me (lo these many years ago) did question my stance on freedom vs. determinism.
  • No: How about granting a bit of perspective? We need people who can think outside the present job parameters. And we desperately need people to challenge those parameters. Educating people to acquiesce by default is not what we need (though it is a short-term path to cash). Liberal Arts (and especially philosophy, let me say) can help this happen. Yes that sounds like the standard line from any college admissions staff says. Yes it is what professors say as they pass each other in the hallowed halls. No you don’t need a college degree to challenge the system, make a million bucks, make a difference or be homeless.

But studying things that don’t make money has a way of making us more conscious of all that is going on around us. Will it eventually make money? Maybe. Maybe not. But we need people with larger vision who can paint or write or photograph or build a different way of looking at things—however that happens.

What do you think?


Image credit: Studio Lindfors via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

February 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

5 Responses

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  1. I’ve read a number of these types of articles for years now, and I’m not buying what they’re selling. The majority of our life’s energies flow toward work. Does it matter if that work violates our way of being in the world, depressing us and sucking us dry? I think it does. I would rather make less money and be more satisfied with life (it’s a real choice I have made in the past and will be making again). The Yahoo article was a little ridiculous. It said to dump your interest in a liberal arts degree and become an elementary education major instead. Yes, that’s what we need, liberal arts drop-outs teaching because they will make more money that way (wouldn’t want my child in that person’s class…)! Our life’s work is not a set of Legos that we simply can interlock in any number of ways, and all are equally good. True, the economy is not in the best shape at present, but I don’t think the right response is to make fear-based decisions when choosing our life’s work. Vocation is a sacred call.

    Judith Hougen

    February 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    • Well said, Judy. And you’ve nailed it with “buying what they’re selling.” The whole point of the Yahoo! Education article was to pull people into their orbit for financial gain. And thanks for pointing out the article’s inconsistencies.I also feel quite strongly the “sacred call” of vocation extends to the wider use of gifts. Thanks for reading.


      February 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      • So sorry to come so late to the party.

        I, too, don’t “buy what they are selling,” partly because I can’t afford to buy much. 🙂

        One of my frequent clarions is to advise the younger generation away from the pain I have experienced from the decisions I made. Is a liberal arts degree a death knell? Not always. It seems that Kirkistan beat the odds. I applaud his good fortune. He followed his path, and it led him well.

        You are, though, the exception that proves the rule. Far too many baristas struggle to pay off their student loans pulling them into a cycle of wage slavery that, arguably, sucks their life faster than working a better paying job that would allow them the economic freedom of movement to explore their intellectual passions. And that is the dirty little secret…economic elbow room allows for more “leisure” time to pursue those passions in life that make life worth living.

        I say this after having worked the only jobs available to a PhD in literature–adjunct teaching, which is about as soul-sucking as a wage-slave job can get (the DOD should look into teaching composition as an alternative to water-boarding). I not only did NOT have the time to pursue my passions, but because of the nature of the beast I began to lose the passion in what I had, up to that point, dedicated my energies to… In the past few years, I have moved away from beating my head against that wall and only take up an online class here and there—kind of a hobby class. I have also pursued, at times in a mercenary manner, alternate revenue streams. Finding a lucrative means of supporting my family while giving myself time and room to breathe (not grading all weekend, nights, etc.) has opened up my life again. I can now feel the deep joy of backyard chicken raising (my other blog is a chicken blog), advocate for just causes and generally explore life again.

        I say all of this to say that I wish that I would have had better counsel/information twenty years ago that would have allowed me to better position my education around a marketable skill over a “calling.” Sometimes the call ends.

        Piss Poor Prof

        February 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

      • Thanks for the comment!


        February 19, 2013 at 9:21 am

  2. […] Liberal Arts degree. He maintains that liberal arts should be corollary studies in college while I think they should be central. Others are chiming in. It’s a discussion I welcome because the topic goes well beyond the choice […]

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