How Many Times Are We Going to Have to Defend English Majors?

Anyone else have a major eye roll when they saw that people were attacking/defending English majors again? I was writing about this in 2013, and I guess now five years later I’m writing about it again. Even more upsetting was the need to defend food service people. Ugh. Seriously? I did a little digging this morning and, of course, added my two cents on twitter. In case anyone is wondering, here’s what happened.

A college student asked author Diana Gabaldon about majoring in English. This was the authors oh-so-sensitive response:

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And book twitter, predictably, went nuts – but Gabaldon didn’t back down. Here’s what I said, which pretty accurately describes my thoughts and feelings.

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Sometimes, I wish I’d studied other things in college – I would guess everyone does. But as an English major I’ve worked in a variety of different jobs. Some for minimum wage, some for less than minimum wage, and some for higher rates then I ever imagined.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s certainly been interesting. And now I’m closer than ever to a major dream of publishing a book (knock on wood). This doesn’t mean we should be dragging on STEM majors though … which I’ve unfortunately seen a little bit of today too.

There have been many more thoughtful and eloquent responses than mine, but perhaps the best is from the college student herself.

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8 thoughts on “How Many Times Are We Going to Have to Defend English Majors?

  1. I’m an English Major and Corporate Recruiter by profession. Getting a degree in any field doesn’t guarantee success. What employers are truly looking for is experience. You have to start at the bottom no matter what degree you get. They also want had workers with good attitudes. I say major in what your passionate about, shoot for those dreams, and get a job to support you along the way and get you the work experience you need to have a decent income if your dreams don’t work out. Also, I work in banking and some of our very top level executives are English majors.

  2. Uuuugggghhhhhh whyyyyy does this keep happening? Good on you for having the patience and wherewithal to reply so eloquently, because I’m not sure I would have been able to. I’m so sick of rehashing this argument and hearing people drag the humanities as a waste of time and money.

    • Ugh is right. I definitely had to wait at least an hour before reading this and responding. My first thoughts were a lot less organized and a lot more angry. I don’t get how she just kept defending herself – like why make the joke and why engage afterwards? Also, she writes books for a living. What did she think was going to happen?

  3. Wow, fuming from reading that Diana Gabaldon tweet! Not that it’s not true to an extent – but if you want to be a writer you go in expecting to be poor don’t you? No-one does it for the money. Plus, I’d say it’s bad advice to tell someone to study something they don’t enjoy, just for the money. It won’t be worth it when you quit the big earning job you hate after a year or two, and realise you spent thousands on a degree that you didn’t enjoy or profit from. Or alternatively, end up working in the field you studied for the rest of your life, having lots of money but never time to write. She’s basically saying just give up on your dreams now. I love how the girl replied, good on her 😀

    • Yeah. I definitely don’t agree with the line of reasoning t hat you should do something you don’t enjoy for the money, but even if you think that is the way to do it I still don’t think you need to be so rude. I’m guessing she thought she was being clever/funny, but a simple I’m sorry is a great way to mitigate that.

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