"Quit your books..." Wait, where are you going?!?

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"First, an obvious external cause [for the drop of English majors]: money." - William M. Chace The Decline of the English Department

Yeah, my choice of majors earns sometimes earns looks of mixed amusement and sympathy, and the immediate follow-up question, "So what're you going to do with that degree?  Teach?"

As Aja points out on her blog, many people majoring in English do so with the hopes of becoming teachers.  Great, the world needs teachers.  Sincere kudos to you aspiring teachers out there, because God knows I do not have the patience or the skill for it.  When I laugh a little and shake my head at the "will you teach?" question, the interrigators then say, "Oh, so you want to be a journalist?"

"Uh, not really.  I don't really know what I want to do.  I want to write?"  This last sentence always comes out as a question, a request for approval.

The questioners sigh sadly.  "You're not going to make any money."  And then they walk away, leaving me to my inevitable financial demise.

While the English major is technically versatile, it still has the two main doors people tend to walk through: Teaching and Journalism.  I do not want to pursue a career in either field, and yet here I am, and the question I sometimes have to ask myself (when begging for loans or writing my final papers) is why.  Well, the truth of the matter is I became an English major not because of any great talent I have for the field, but because of a profound lack of talent I have in all other areas of life.  It's true, I am "less worse" at English. heh.  So I was not originally as romantic about the field as those naturally talented people, however I found my respect and passion for English as inevitable as the bankruptcy I'm apparently going to suffer because of it.  

Even though I was driven to this path paved with poverty, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.  It definitely saddens me that people are turning away from this major and demeaning its worth.  Maybe the study of English is hard to defend, because its best attributes must be worded in a slightly philosophical way, and our world has become less appreciative and trusting of anything not purely factual.  I can write until my hands fall off about how literature reveals common ground for us to walk upon, allows hard-won truths to blossom, and makes the aches and pains of life bearable, but people want dollar signs.  Hey, I can relate, if for no other reason than the fact I've grown used to eating over the past 20 years.  And yet, I can't help falling back on that old cliche, money isn't everything. 

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3 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

Yea. When I say I want to write/be an author, (if they don't say I won't make any money) they say "Oh? So I should look to you for the next best seller, right?" And I feel that is so much pressure.

Since I say I want to be a journalist also, they ask me if they'll see me on TV. A lot of the time I don't correct them.

Money isn't everything, but it is. At times, I wish I lived in the old days where women didn't have as many rights. Then, I wouldn't be expected to go out and get a job. I could write on my own time. Any extra money I made would profit the family and go into rainy day funds, but this isn't realistic.

English is a versatile major, but you have to persuade employers that way. If they didn't major in English, chances are they don't see the use in it.

Dianna Griffin said:

That cliche is absolutely right, money isn't everything. Unlike you, I do want to become a teacher. Teachers make bank...not. I will love my job, even though it doesn't pay as much as I would like it to. However, I could not be a writer for the life of me. Yea, all we do is write, write, oh and did I say write, as English majors. I couldn't do it for a job. My brain only has so much imagination.

I think it's great that you're going against the grain. Writing is extremely hard, and if you want to do that for a living, then you're awesome.

Kayla Lesko said:

No one really ever gave me a hard time about my major. I do want to make money, but I always wanted to be a Creative Writing major since I was old enough to write. To make up for this, I decided to minor in Psychology.

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