Ladies and gentlemen, I am more than one hundred percent sure we have all gotten the same response at some point from someone when we told them we’re majoring in English: “English? Huh. What are you going to do with that?” Spend my time trying to explain the reasoning behind my life choices in college to a prick like you, probably.
But seriously, it can become very annoying. When people ask you what you plan to do with your major, it’s for one of two reasons: 1) they actually want to know, or 2) they don’t see any job opportunities that could come out of your major and they want to know why you’re wasting your time. People just don’t think you can do anything of importance with a degree in English. Even students and faculty members of my other majors and minors – mainly in the social sciences – questioned my choice of English. No one sees this as being an important major.
Well, I’m here to argue that not only is English a very important major, it is one of the most important majors available to us on our campus. I shall explain.
English majors are exposed to many differing ideas not only about how to approach literature, but how to approach people, language, history, and theories. English majors are taught the importance of language and its use in creating society. We understand how books shape who we are as a people. We are taught to read what is intentionally hidden. We are taught to understand social, political, economic, and cultural reasons for the actions of characters – who are mirroring people (sometimes). English majors understand how discourse creates – and destroys – institutions and societies. We are taught to view things differently and to understand things from varying viewpoints. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” This is what we as English majors are taught to do.
Yes, we love books. Many people become English majors (partly) because of their love for books. But an English major does not spend their entire college career reading fiction and literature for fun and then discussing it with their professor. English majors are critical thinkers. We are good debaters, excellent writers, intellectuals, and so much more.
Yes, sometimes our job opportunities are limited, but that’s not because English is a useless major. It’s because we live in a capitalistic society that encourages making money over understanding, caring, intellectualizing, and immersing yourself in academics. We live in a world that teaches that we should go to school to get the skills to get a job to make money and spend our lives being money-makers. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money, that should not be the goal of education. The goal of education should be to get educated, to learn, to understand, to grow. No classes have taught me better than my English classes.
And for those of you who believe English majors will just end up broke, living in their parent’s basements, I have news for you: the job market will leave us all like that. Grab the ramen noodles and turn on your Netflix. We’re going to be unemployed together.