Why English Majors Need To Take Their Lumps


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I feel like this is something I will definitely return to at some later date.

For those of you who live in the normal world, you may not understand one troubling facet of going to school for English. You are the butt of the educated world’s joke.

Some of these things you’ve heard before if you know anyone who has even attempted the dreaded task of getting an English degree. For instance, try getting a degree in English without someone once asking you if you are going to teach. Try it, I have 2 years to burn, I’ll be right here. Now I understand that English majors are awesome at teaching, but it is quite possible to become a teacher without ever declaring as an English major. See, they sort of have whole degrees for teachers now, on top of certification programs. It isn’t like you get to the last pages of Heart of Darkness and they just hand you the attendance sheet to the nearest 1st grade class.

One, what would 1st graders do with Heart of Darkness? That is just grim and weird. Two, there are a lot of things you can do with an English degree.

None of them make more than 15,000 dollars a year, but that doesn’t detract from the point.

Another thing, people consider English an easy A. Now, I wouldn’t exactly call it mind-blowing in difficulty, but I’ve seen some of you out there write, and you couldn’t pen your way out of a cliche metaphor. Not that I’m Dr. Dick over here with the writing, but I don’t come into your business class, take a dump on your compound interest, then tell you I could have done it better anyway. I’ve been told exactly that, by the way. While taking 400 level English courses, I was assured by my computer science colleagues that they could easily pass my assignments. This didn’t upset me or anything, lets just ignore that it wounded me enough that I remember it almost half a decade later.

But whatever, the domain of the English major is important. As book keepers of dusty tomes, we pick apart ancient myths, and craft new legends, so suck me off (or something less base). At least no one would accuse us of being downright stupid, except in our choice of declared major.

Except now some of that is going on too. You see, a lady named Virginia Heffernan, likely a better writer than me, wrote an article called ‘Why I’m a Creationist.’ This showed up on Yahoo!, which makes it about as credible as your average pop-up ad that promises you an ‘amazing diet secret discovered by a house mom!’ But Heffernan, as a journalist (and yes, journalists are under the umbrella of English), also has a PHD in English. So when she comes out and says, ‘I believe in God, because the story is better,’ she may as well have taken a dump on my morning banana. As an atheist, I really didn’t care much about this. I don’t know Heffernan, I don’t care what she has to say, and there are plenty of seemingly intelligent people who believe the same as she does.

The problem is the reaction from my brothers and sisters in atheism. I was privy to one thread of comments that could be summarized as ‘English majors don’t learn critical thinking.’

Well then, that solves it, I must have implanted memories. I’m like wolverine, but I know how to blog, and I’m not an overused prop of a character. When I was in school, I remember being required to pick apart a piece of text, its historical context, its diction, its themes, its characters, its other-English-words, to craft arguments that would leave a lay reader confused if we weren’t confused on what the reading assignment was. The whole, and I mean the whole, of English education is critical thinking. We have to play philosopher, journalist, linguist, and artist, all wrapped in one caffeine addled package. So when I’m told most English majors don’t have critical thinking skills, I want to climb up a wall.

Now I won’t blame this on Virginia (Even though she was the catalyst for all this, seems a bit of a dolt, and really is to blame at least 30%), this was a long time coming. Journalists are no longer trustworthy people, the best known authors of our time are known for creating kids books and anti-feminist stalker porn, and your average English teacher is still making children suffer through The Great Gatsby. Really, English majors have no one to blame for the target over their hearts but their own hubris.

But I got my degree in this field because I wanted it, not to become a teacher. It is my passion to listen to the world around me, and try to create something that reflects my vision onto others. So I wish I could at least suffer through it, dirt poor and prancing around for scraps, without being considered an absolute moron.

Maybe though, I need to just zip up, and take my lumps, like a good English major.


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