As a history and anthropology major planning on pursuing archaeology, one of my least favorite things I am asked is, “What are you going to do with that?” A question that implies that what I am studying is a waste of time.
That I will not be able to find a job, or that in the “unlikely” event I do that I will not make a lot of money. Whether money equates to happiness plays into this, but the bigger question is this: Why does society steer people away from humanities?
I know I am not alone. In a group of friends with mostly science majors, I feel stupid. I feel invalidated, like what I am doing does not matter in the grand scheme of the world. Why am I unable to figure out how to succeed in these same fields? How rigorous is what I am doing? And for a brief second, I let others determine how intelligent I am, and judge my intelligence based on my major.
Why do I and many other humanities or arts majors become made to feel this way? Because college in many ways is seen by the previous generations as job training rather than furthering education.
Any sort of vagueness in a major leaves previous generations to be confused and uneducated by the many options that different majors have to offer for students. Only vocational majors such as pre-med, pre-law and engineering in which a student is guaranteed a job in a specific field after graduation are highly respected.
The truth is that the ignorance of how much the world has to offer plays a pivotal role in the lack of respect for humanities majors and even nonvocational science majors. A biology major who does not intend on going to medical school most likely feels very similar to humanities, constantly being made to answer questions like, “What are you going to do with that?” or even, “Oh so if you are not going to medical school, I guess you just want to teach?”
As a defense mechanism, people often knock what they do not understand down. This is especially common in older generations who are often too stubborn to admit they might not understand something, and think that the ways of life they grew up with are the only way to live.
This is a deep societal issue and results in people choosing certain paths in life to please others and not doing what makes them happy.
The reason why people do not understand that there are other options than just being a doctor or lawyer is that those were the higher paying and more “respectable” traditional career paths that our parents and grandparents may have been pushed toward. And if they were not they most definitely were compared to students who did aim to become a doctor or a lawyer.
There is nothing wrong with doing what makes you happy and following a path that you create for yourself. If being a doctor or lawyer is that path then live that dream! It is just important to remember not to invalidate other people because you might not understand their path and to know how many options are available to students. Ask questions when something is not understood, spread knowledge and support — not hate and judgement!
Julia Fuchs is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and anthropology and minoring in French and archaeology. Her column, "Questioning Jules," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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