Liberal arts majors aren’t history yet

H. Margaret Slye

(H. Margaret Slye)

(H. Margaret Slye)

If you’re a history, philosophy or literature major, you’re probably used to this question:

“What are you going to do with that?”

You also might be used to not having an answer. Judging solely from my personal experience of being surrounded by college students, there are plenty who feel the same way.

It may be a privileged way to look at a college education, but the practical dismissal of half of the academic landscape is not conducive to a functioning employment environment.

It seems like we’re constantly being told that the educational paths that science and math oriented logical thinkers tend to choose also tend to be more lucrative than those creative thinkers choose. Evidence supports this claim. According to a 2011 Georgetown University study, a business major makes an average of $60,000 per year, whereas an arts major makes about $44,000.

“Given the lingering effects of the economic recession, I definitely think there’s an emphasis in our culture on viewing a college education as a financial investment with an expected payoff upon graduation,” Said Gina Shaffer, Professor of English at Saddleback College.

By my deduction, the system of discouraging potential students from choosing a liberal arts major or “right brained” subjects in favor of “left-brained” ones only leaves us with many disinterested accountants. It’s not right that things like literature and history, which are such noble and important pursuits, are the ones that elicit dismissive attitudes.

“Calling humanities and social sciences ‘useless’ fields to study suggests that you should go to college only to learn a trade or to choose and prepare for a professional career,” Said Saddleback College history professor Jon Mochizuki,  Professor of at Saddleback College, “Those are important goals to be sure, but what about learning more about yourself, and your relationship to the larger community, society, and world?”

That’s not to say that “left-brained” pursuits are lesser endeavors in any respect.

“Unfortunately, we need to progress technologically and humans need to constantly change the modern world, and liberal arts won’t do that,” said Spencer Hall, 20, Engineering, “Somebody’s got to invent the new car, and it’s sad that a history major doesn’t promote that kind of progression, but it’s true.”

Technological progression is one thing, but humanity needs to progress also. When we discourage the study of liberal arts, we are left with one half of a whole.


To talk to the transfer center about choosing a major:

To explore the 2011 Georgetown University study further:

The Daily Beast’s list of the “13 most useless majors”:


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