Viewpoint: The positives of being an English major

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Viewpoint: The positives of being an English major

Shayna Anderson, General Assignment Reporter

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When people hear the words “English major” coming from the mouth of a student, they seem to most likely think of things like being unsuccessful, a waste of time, not going to find a job or even feeling embarrassed for them.

Growing up and knowing that an English career was what I wanted to pursue, I found myself afraid to tell even my family that I was thinking about this major. I had a strong sense of knowing what I wanted to do though, so I didn’t let myself get persuaded against going into English, but it was definitely harder for me to accept than let’s say, my sister, who is currently in medical school.

The thing I don’t understand is why people disapprove of English majors so much. Often, people automatically assume that I won’t find a job, or I won’t make any money or I won’t be happy. People sometimes go so far as to say that English is simply a hobby, not an actual career choice. This feedback is both harsh and unfair to hear. Do they not consider that every career has its challenges? That maybe making millions of dollars isn’t my number one priority?

My senior year of high school, I stumbled upon an article that after reading it, I sent it out to every teacher in the English department at my school. The article, titled “The Ideal English Major,” was written by Mark Edmundson of the Chronicle of Higher Education. This article continues to be a huge reason why I am so confident in my choice to major in English.

Within the first paragraph, Edmundson writes, “All students—and I mean all—ought to think seriously about majoring in English. Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all—being a human being.”

Majoring in English, yes, may consist of writing many papers and reading many classics. However, this is not a bad thing. Writing and reading expose people to not only how others feel, but also it allows us to dig into our own opinions and express ourselves more vividly. Being surrounded by literature and writing shows us different emotions, stories and ways of thinking. These skills are valuable. These skills are necessary for us to be good humans.

Also, the main idea that English majors supposedly cannot find jobs is also very incorrect. According to the Department of English at the University of Washington, there are over 50 occupations that English majors from their university have gone into. These include, but are not limited to: editors, executive directors, public relations assistants, human resources managers and market research analysts. Considering these statistics come from real students with English degrees, there is no faking the facts.

The most eye-opening part of the article written by Edmundson, in my opinion, comes at the very end. Edmundson concludes with describing, “What we’re talking about is a path to becoming a human being, or at least a better sort of human being than one was at the start. An English major? To me, an English major is someone who has decided, against all kinds of pious, prudent advice and all kinds of fears and resistances, to major, quite simply, in becoming a person. Once you’ve passed that particular course of study—or at least made some significant progress on your way—then maybe you’re ready to take up something else.”

I challenge students, especially those at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, to break away from the stereotype that English majors are not worth the time of day. Instead, students should look at the benefits of having an English major and how it can help with communicating with others, expressing one’s self and relating to all parts of the world. Also, while they are at it, they should pick up a couple books to read just for fun.

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