I know, I get it all of the time. So what are you going to do with your degree? It’s constant. Since I finished my junior year, weekly, I am asked this question about my imminent graduation. Besides the fact that I graduate in may, and that is still months and months away, there are people who insist that I know what I am doing right now. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing a year from now, but most people don’t. Things may be unclear, but I am ever-grateful that I was lead to this particular major. My education has benefited greatly and here are some reasons why:
1. a new sense of perception
I don’t think that it comes as a surprise that anyone who majors in the humanities ends up reading for a living. This is not a bad thing. Aren’t we in college to broaden our horizons and to become knowledgeable of the world? This is where the whole reading thing comes in, one can no longer look at things and take them as they are. Pulling from a book of essays on Lyric Poetry, Victor Shklovsky is quoted:
“The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end to itself and must be prolonged” (Townsend, 231).
Shklovsky is on point (he is published after all), the purpose of art is to make things unfamiliar so that one may take the time to perceive it in the way that it was meant. This also is true for the study of art.
2. the development of an analytical mind
Knowing how to think, how to write, and how to argue those thoughts on paper is an incredibly valuable skill. I met someone the other night who is now an editor but she was an english literature major in college. She told me exactly what I had been thinking, and what I had been told by my professors, that the skills of an english major are valuable. Anyone who studies the humanities is forced to think critically on a daily basis. There is no clear cut answer for most things, but I can defend my opinion because of x,y,and z.
3. a greater understanding of the culture that surrounds me
Reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in its original middle-english may have been an acute form of torture, but it was beneficial (even if some may not think so). Now, Chaucer is just one example, but reading the works of people who came earlier allows young people to better understand the culture that we live in today. Reading these works allows students to enter another world and understand it. And on a side note, people like Chaucer and Shakespeare are responsible for many words that we use on a regular basis today.
4. organizing your thoughts into ideas becomes your specialty
This is directly related to the second point. Since an english major is constantly writing and thinking about what they have read, they become very good at organizing thoughts into ideas worth writing about. I’m sure that everyone has looked at a paper topic and been baffled, but this is a part of what a liberal arts education is supposed to do. Problem solving is just one of the many benefits.
5. because being able to write is important
It just is. It is so important to be able to write well. Whether it’s an email or a blog post, the skill of writing well comes in handy.
And although Sheldon Cooper may not think so, having an English Degree is valuable.