Monday, December 19, 2005

Why I Didn't Major in Women's Studies

This post is not about slamming Women's Studies. I've never taken a WS course, so I'm not going to act like an expert. I'm just letting y'all know why I didn't even consider it as a major. (I get asked that a lot, since I'm a feminist.)

The answer is here. Take a look at what last year's engineering, computer, and business majors made right out of college compared to what their liberal arts counterparts made. Who can afford to be a liberal arts major? Who can drop thousands of dollars to major in something that has a high rate of college grads waiting tables?

I certainly couldn't afford it. I didn't go to college for any kind of "personal fulfillment". I went because I was dirt poor and didn't want to continue to be dirt poor. Although college did turn out to be personally fulfilling, I couldn't shell out that kind of cash just for that reason.

I don't like to use the phrase "liberal elite". But sometimes I see why it was coined.

Welcome back! You have a point, financially anyway. I think the main problem is that the information gleaned from a liberal arts degree is essential in understanding and thinking critically about society, but unfortunately such knowledge is not rewarded as it should be.
What you said about thinking critically is true. I certainly met many business students who lacked critical thinking skills, and also the creative skills they will need to succeed in the business world.

Finance classes are a perfect example of this. I remember sitting in those classes thinking how I was getting both smarter and dumber at the same time. Smarter because I learned a bunch of formulas and how to use them. Dumber because I felt all my creativity was being sucked out of me!
There's an old saw about this.

An Engineering graduate asks: "How does it work?"

An Accounting graduate asks: "How much will it cost?"

A Psychology graduate asks: "How do you feel about it working?"

A Liberal Arts graduate asks: "Do you want fries with that?"
Who can afford to be a liberal arts major?

You think everybody who went to law school got a degree in cellular biology?

And what she said about a lack of any liberal arts education. I once took a creative writing class and ended up with the section that all the engineers took for their humanities credit. It was NOT pretty.
I almost put the grad/professional school disclaimer in there. But then I thought, if you can afford to major in liberal arts, you can probably afford law school too.

Even if you get a scholarship (like I did) it's hard to pay living expenses to stay in school that long. You can hold a job as an undergrad, but in law school it's tougher. The UIowa law school doesn't even allow you to work.
Given the loans a lot of my co-workers are carrying, I think "afford" is kind of a stretch.

I don't think many engineering/computer/business majors were dirt-poor kids who practically chose the most lucrative career path, nor that liberal-arts majors are rich kids who figure they'll come out all right. At least when I went to college, a lot of those liberal-arts grads were positive they'd be tenured professors after grad school (or that they were pre-law), and the engineering students were in engineering because, well, they were gearheads. ;)
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