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I don’t have to defend my degree to you

By Anna Meurer
Opinion Editor

As college students, we get asked about our majors a lot— have you noticed? That I understand and don’t mind. What I DO mind, however, is the almost inevitable judgement that follows. In fact, when people ask me what my major is (history and religion), I feel compelled to add a justification afterwards to preemptively ward off the skepticism.

However, I’ve stopped. Why? Because I realized that I’m proud of my majors. I chose them for rational reasons, and I don’t need an immediate and direct professional connection to make it valuable.

The root of the problem, I believe, is that we’ve been conditioned to judge our majors relative to each other instead of according to their contribution to the wider academic community.

Just think for a minute—how many times have you heard one major say something condescending about another discipline or major? If we believed the stereotypes, art majors would be awarded by coloring in the lines, bio majors by proving things someone else has already proven, chemistry majors by blowing things up, philosophy majors by talking in circles, psychology majors by asking people how they feel, sociology majors by getting offended, history majors by memorizing dead facts about dead people, religion majors by praying, kinesiology majors by watching sports and communication majors by talking to each other.

I missed a few majors, I know. But isn’t it ridiculous? If that were all there were to any of these studies, they wouldn’t be. Can you really make the argument that one major is useless?

There is a misunderstanding about what constitutes usefulness. Some majors are more useful for establishing specific skill sets with a direct application—the hard sciences, economics, accounting and kinesiology come to mind. Others are useful for establishing an understanding of a future framework of operation—political science, religion and sociology come to mind here. And some are useful for establishing fundamental skills—philosophy, English, history, I’m looking at you.

Of course there are a few exceptions: we all know the person who skimmed through without much effort. But I am firmly convinced that each discipline has its challenges, and the top in each discipline will find those challenges and work on them.

One of my favorite sayings of all time is “Science can tell you how to clone a T-Rex. The humanities can tell you why this might be a bad idea.” I could expand that to include every other major: communication could help you convince the scientists why it might be a bad idea, accounting and economics could tell you how much it would cost to clone a dinosaur…on and on and on.

Long story short, the idea of a superior major is a myth. It does not exist. The disciplines are not contradictory; they are complementary and interdependent. They enhance each other.

As a graduating senior, my challenge to each of you is to stop competing and start collaborating. Those who refuse to open their minds are doomed to be trapped by them.