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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure how much any of you can offer me in the way of constructive consultation, but a piece of solidarity would soothe my insecurity.

My dilemma is that the only disciplines I have an aptitude for are the fields that receive considerable criticism. I mean, to put it broadly, I'm pretty much limited to the liberal arts (esp. literature and psychology). The only reputable career I even have the potential for is one in law (which, you know, is fucking boring).

And it is not that I'm only interested in a career that society looks at favorably, it's that I'm annoyed by the prospect of making shit pay and working under someone who is substantially less intelligent than I am. A humanitarian career that requires a lot of travel strikes me as ideal, but c'mon, everyone my age spouts that desire... My life has been far too cozy to prepare me for developing countries.

This is what I know about myself:

  • My public speaking skills are markedly good.
  • My writing skills are, more or less, very good.
  • I'm pretty good with most social sciences.
  • I'm shit at mathematics and science, with the exception of biology.
  • My people skills are debatable. I converse well, but people have told me that my eloquence leads people to think that I'm condescending and rude.
  • Things that I like include: debating, performing, and writing.
  • Things that I hate include: bureaucracy and general strictness.

I'm 17-years-old and I'm applying to several colleges and I'm balls-deep in a cesspool of indecision. I think that I'm going to declare literature as my major, but ugh. Any suggestions?
 
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My girlfriend majored in literature (In Australia) and has done quite well for herself. One thing to consider is how many companies need people who are good at writing. Writing is one of the major skills that society needs and I think a literature major is one of the best majors for honing those skills. My girlfriends parent's are quite practically minded and they tried to ensure that she would be able to get a job after graduating by advising her to try to focus on getting into the publishing industry, mainly as an editor. She will be doing a post graduate degree in editing to help her get there.

Publishing is a big industry and all publications need good editors. It's quite competitive (almost all industries are) so getting experience through unpaid internships is a good thing to do while you are studying and probably after you are studying too, until you find paid work. You might also want to do a few media courses, as they will help you to learn how to produce and market a creative product. Writing is a creative product and I think knowledge of media can help you to become good at marketing yourself and your work, not only to end consumers of your product, but also to employers.
 

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THERE IS SO MUCH YOU CAN DO WITH THESE SKILLS!!!

ALSO, FUCK LAW. It angers me that this is the only thing people can think of that suits the amazing interpersonal/critical thinking skills that one acquires through the intellectual rigor of liberal arts studies.

As one may guess, I myself am a recent liberal arts grad and advocate. The great thing about public speaking, writing, the ability to debate (critical thinking), analysis (if you major in literature be prepared for a lot of literary theory), is that you can apply these skills to anything that you are passionate about-- whether that's environmental campaigning, education, public policy, publishing, journalism, documentary filmmaking, writing, WHATEVER.

I don't mean to sound lofty and overly-idealistic - I am far from it. And while I do think that a lot of humanitarian work is bullshit, self-serving, and potentially harmful because of the overprivileged, American approach, I also believe that there is a way to incorporate these desires for social justice/human rights in a way that is realistic and self-critical/critical of the system.

Here is some advice:
Get off your sassy, high horse ("I'm annoyed by the prospect of making shit pay and working under someone who is substantially less intelligent than I am.") Unfortunately we do live in a world where the highest paying jobs are sometimes those that requires one to compromise their morals/ideals (hello, Wall Street). Moreover, there is bureaucracy in almost every job you can think of - whether that's non-profit, medicine, law, etc. It permeates every facet of society. You can still hate it, but also realize that bureaucratic obstacles will always be there.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I thank both of you for your advice

Get off your sassy, high horse.
I wish I could, but I am definitely guilty of the "over-privileged, American approach" to life. Which is principally why I refuse to go into humanitarian efforts. I can't trust myself with something I don't know much about (i.e. immense suffering).

There's no part of me that is deluded into thinking I'll live a life that is glorious and free from the bullshit; I just don't want to be engulfed in it. I once read a horrifying article that said those who attend expensive, liberal arts colleges end up under mountains of debt, only to work for the idiot who did the minimal for free education from a state college. For some reason, that line stuck with me. It kind of horrifies me. I guess the upside is that my EFC (expected family contribution) is something laughably low, so FAFSA and the like will cushion my fall into that student debt hole.

Anyway, I'm probably just going to claim a psychology or literature major. If I change by the time I graduate, I will be part of the vast majority. Whatever. Why can't I just be a rich, white guy in Victorian England?
 
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I'd go with Biology + English double major.
If the law thing doesn't work out there's always teaching.

As for the traveling bug- it's just a phase that's sure to pass with age.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'd go with Biology + English double major.
If the law thing doesn't work out there's always teaching.

As for the traveling bug- it's just a phase that's sure to pass with age.
Ha! That's pretty much my worst fears wrapped up into a great big ball; if I'm not good enough for law, then teaching!
 

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I'm 17-years-old and I'm applying to several colleges and I'm balls-deep in a cesspool of indecision. I think that I'm going to declare literature as my major, but ugh. Any suggestions?
Don't worry too much. Most undergraduates change their major at least once during their studies. College is a formative experience and I think it's best you waited until perhaps your sophomore year as an undergraduate student to reach a decision. At that point you will also have access to collegiate academic advisors who can assuage your concerns. Sadly in high school there is undue pressure on seniors to know precisely what career path they want to take, college faculty know this and you will not be asked to declare a major as a new student. The intended major you select in your college application is to help you get started and not an agreement to commit.
 

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My advice is very simple: DON'T STUDY ENGLISH.

You may think you want to study literature - but do it in your own time, not at university.

English isn't a real degree. It's so general a degree that it doesn't lead anywhere. It shows that you can write, and that you can attend university for 3 years, but so will a lot of other courses. It doesn't get you into a good job, and it doesn't develop any useful skills. Careers include academe, teaching, and general office work. If you want a career, do something that will actually be useful and relevant - Law, Politics, International Studies, Science.

If you want a subject that's actually challenging or stimulating, English isn't it. It's ridiculously easy, and not a subject for which you even need to work. Pretty much anything you learn in an English class, you can learn off your own bat, by reading a handful of the classics, Sparks Notes, Bloom's Canon, and a general guide to literary theory. (There is a reason why English degrees have a low admissions score.)

English (like most liberal arts courses) is pretentious and anti-intellectual (or, rather, irrational). The discipline as a whole is heavily politicised, and overtly hostile to science and reason and the real world. It doesn't teach students how to think, but there's a lot of outraged moral values and opposition to secular humanism. And you may end up churning out stuff like this: The Postmodernism Generator » Communications From Elsewhere (which is a parody, but an accurate one)

Basically, it's a degree in bullshit.

And I'm basing this on my knowledge of three different universities.

I'll also add that most people who study English end up regretting it - unless they're determined to become academics.

Also, check this out: http://www.headingfortheexits.com/life-lessons-never-be-an-english-major/
http://underneathabook.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/why-i-tell-people-majoring-in-english.html
 

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I disagree.

The quality and intellectual rigor of your classes will, of course, be based on what school you end up going to. While I do think that literature is not the most relevant topic one can choose to study in academia, I do believe that in any top liberal arts school, you WILL NEVER be able to get by with "Spark Notes" or a "general guide to literary theory"...because, to be frank, that shit isn't insightful and it lacks any meaning. Obviously courses and schools that would allow students to get away the basic knowledge one can gain from simply reading what you proposed wouldn't "teach students how to think"; but for the professors, conferences, and students who dare to dig deeper, there is a lot to be gained.

Not everything that deviates from the scientific method or from "reason" as you put is anti-intellectual and/or pretentious.

My advice is very simple: DON'T STUDY ENGLISH.

You may think you want to study literature - but do it in your own time, not at university.

English isn't a real degree. It's so general a degree that it doesn't lead anywhere. It shows that you can write, and that you can attend university for 3 years, but so will a lot of other courses. It doesn't get you into a good job, and it doesn't develop any useful skills. Careers include academe, teaching, and general office work. If you want a career, do something that will actually be useful and relevant - Law, Politics, International Studies, Science.

If you want a subject that's actually challenging or stimulating, English isn't it. It's ridiculously easy, and not a subject for which you even need to work. Pretty much anything you learn in an English class, you can learn off your own bat, by reading a handful of the classics, Sparks Notes, Bloom's Canon, and a general guide to literary theory. (There is a reason why English degrees have a low admissions score.)

English (like most liberal arts courses) is pretentious and anti-intellectual (or, rather, irrational). The discipline as a whole is heavily politicised, and overtly hostile to science and reason and the real world. It doesn't teach students how to think, but there's a lot of outraged moral values and opposition to secular humanism. And you may end up churning out stuff like this: The Postmodernism Generator » Communications From Elsewhere (which is a parody, but an accurate one)

Basically, it's a degree in bullshit.

And I'm basing this on my knowledge of three different universities.

I'll also add that most people who study English end up regretting it - unless they're determined to become academics.

Also, check this out: Life Lessons: Never Be An English Major » Heading for the Exits
Underneath a Book: Why I Tell People Majoring in English is an Incredibly Bad Idea
 

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My advice is very simple: DON'T STUDY ENGLISH.


English (like most liberal arts courses) is pretentious and anti-intellectual (or, rather, irrational). The discipline as a whole is heavily politicised, and overtly hostile to science and reason and the real world. It doesn't teach students how to think, but there's a lot of outraged moral values and opposition to secular humanism. And you may end up churning out stuff like this: The Postmodernism Generator » Communications From Elsewhere (which is a parody, but an accurate one)

Basically, it's a degree in bullshit.
I'm from a science background and I can say that some of the sharpest intellectuals that I know, come from liberal arts backgrounds. There is nothing "anti-intellectual" about liberal arts, what is anti-intellectual is having a disdain for the pursuit of knowledge, which you have clearly shown throughout your post.
 

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Here's 2 cents from someone who's been on both sides of the coin:

I used to think being an English major would be easy because I am gifted in language. Then I actually became one.

I started school as a Biology major because I enjoy/am good at science and I thought it practical. I got good grades with little effort and was pretty happy with my courses. But two years in, I took my first advanced English course, and everything changed. Real literature courses are surprisingly challenging. What's more, I loved it more than anything I'd yet experienced and because of my dedication to it, I was working harder than ever before. I changed my major to English one semester later, and I have not looked back. Biology was teaching me facts/theories and systems, yes. But English is teaching me a work ethic that I previously lacked and improving what critical thinking skills I already had.

What's more, I am actually much more confident in my ability to get a job with my English degree than I would have been had I continued with Biology. Why? I was good at Biology, but it wasn't as fulfilling for me, and I wasn't gaining a reputation or the references I would need to get hired. In liberal arts, I have all of that. For me, changing majors was the difference between a run-of-the-mill degree, and a real, well rounded education.

Sure, I am still a student. Sure, I don't have a job or anything to back up what I say. But the fact remains that I am happy, and that I have already begun to attain some level of success in my field, however meagre. A science or business degree is no more guarantee of a job than a liberal arts one is, and not everyone can be doctors, lawyers, and business-people. There is a whole world of professions out there that you have probably never even imagined. You just have to look and find one that suits you.

So if a liberal arts field is what makes you happy, I say go for it. Even if you don't end up working in your field or end up with an average job like people like to say us liberal arts majors will, you will may well be happier studying what you actually like than working so well-paying but un-fulfilling job for the rest of your life. People who regret their degrees are studying them for the wrong reasons.

Ask yourself: Would you regret not studying literature or psychology? And what do you value more: a well-paying job or doing what you actually like, for however short a time?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
My advice is very simple: DON'T STUDY ENGLISH.

You may think you want to study literature - but do it in your own time, not at university.

English isn't a real degree. It's so general a degree that it doesn't lead anywhere. It shows that you can write, and that you can attend university for 3 years, but so will a lot of other courses. It doesn't get you into a good job, and it doesn't develop any useful skills. Careers include academe, teaching, and general office work. If you want a career, do something that will actually be useful and relevant - Law, Politics, International Studies, Science.

If you want a subject that's actually challenging or stimulating, English isn't it. It's ridiculously easy, and not a subject for which you even need to work. Pretty much anything you learn in an English class, you can learn off your own bat, by reading a handful of the classics, Sparks Notes, Bloom's Canon, and a general guide to literary theory. (There is a reason why English degrees have a low admissions score.)

English (like most liberal arts courses) is pretentious and anti-intellectual (or, rather, irrational). The discipline as a whole is heavily politicised, and overtly hostile to science and reason and the real world. It doesn't teach students how to think, but there's a lot of outraged moral values and opposition to secular humanism. And you may end up churning out stuff like this: The Postmodernism Generator » Communications From Elsewhere (which is a parody, but an accurate one)

Basically, it's a degree in bullshit.

And I'm basing this on my knowledge of three different universities.

I'll also add that most people who study English end up regretting it - unless they're determined to become academics.

Also, check this out: Life Lessons: Never Be An English Major » Heading for the Exits
Underneath a Book: Why I Tell People Majoring in English is an Incredibly Bad Idea
Eh, I don't know. I think you're approaching it in a terribly limited way.

Studying literature isn't a slippery slope into wild aestheticism and irrationality, that is only the case when it is simply one's inclination to ignore objectivity (which I would never do). The two strongest critical reasoners I have had teach me both hold degrees in literature, while my teacher who instructs on BC Calculus and AP Physics denies the validity of evolution. A major is a stronger indication of interest than it is intellect.
 
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I'm from a science background and I can say that some of the sharpest intellectuals that I know, come from liberal arts backgrounds. There is nothing "anti-intellectual" about liberal arts, what is anti-intellectual is having a disdain for the pursuit of knowledge, which you have clearly shown throughout your post.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I respect knowledge, and try to improve my mind, which is why I am hostile to the dominant dogma of liberal arts courses: Postmodernism. This means:


  • Solipsism, subjectivity, radical scepticism, the legitimization of chaos
  • A rejection of Enlightenment values (reason, progress, objectivity, logic, the search for truth). Instead, PoMo maintains that truth and knowledge are constructed for political ends (power), most often by straight white privileged males. Everything has to be deconstructed to reveal the underlying power structures. Since knowledge is constructed for political ends, it is impossible to know anything.
  • Hostility to science. See here: Postmodernism Disrobed - Richard Dawkins, Nature - - - RichardDawkins.net.
  • Politicization of courses: queer theory, post-colonialism, theories of the body, &c.
  • The death of the author, and of authorial intention - meaning resides in the reader/critic, so ALL opinions are valid.
  • Pseudo-intellectual masturbation, typified by a tendency to lecture on 'positing the airport as an exemplary in-between space in which the nowhere/anywhere modes of cosmopolitanism are performed', or on James Joyce, Heidegger's Dasein, the gendering of time, Sigmund Freud, and the female penis.

Can I suggest that @Elveni read Frederick Crews's brilliant satire Post-modern Pooh? This will give her a good idea of the sort of thing she's likely to encounter.
 

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Sounds like you just don't like postmodernism...

I'm studying history and philosophy, and I can say that not everything or everyone is saturated with postmodern "dogma."

Its also ironic that you critique postmodernism but leave nothing to fill its place.
 

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@coolhandluke Plus I notice that many popular criticisms of postmodernism are strawmen and value-based judgments. Won't go into a lot of detail--that's best reserved for another thread.
 

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I'd go with Biology + English double major.
As someone who's actually doing that exact degree right now, don't do the bio portion unless you are prepared to have to deal with every other science as well. Don't expect to go in and receive pure biology. I'm sure I don't have to say this, but since you mention you only consider yourself good in biology - everything is interconnected.
 

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Nothing could be further from the truth. I respect knowledge, and try to improve my mind, which is why I am hostile to the dominant dogma of liberal arts courses: Postmodernism. This means:


Solipsism, subjectivity, radical scepticism, the legitimization of chaos
A rejection of Enlightenment values (reason, progress, objectivity, logic, the search for truth). Instead, PoMo maintains that truth and knowledge are constructed for political ends (power), most often by straight white privileged males. Everything has to be deconstructed to reveal the underlying power structures. Since knowledge is constructed for political ends, it is impossible to know anything.
Hostility to science. See here: Postmodernism Disrobed - Richard Dawkins, Nature - - - RichardDawkins.net.
Politicization of courses: queer theory, post-colonialism, theories of the body, &c.
The death of the author, and of authorial intention - meaning resides in the reader/critic, so ALL opinions are valid.
Pseudo-intellectual masturbation, typified by a tendency to lecture on 'positing the airport as an exemplary in-between space in which the nowhere/anywhere modes of cosmopolitanism are performed', or on James Joyce, Heidegger's Dasein, the gendering of time, Sigmund Freud, and the female penis.



Can I suggest that @Elveni read Frederick Crews's brilliant satire Post-modern Pooh? This will give her a good idea of the sort of thing she's likely to encounter.
To be quite frank, it is clear that you do not know what you are talking about. The liberal arts is a very wide field of study, far too wide to be summed up by post modernism.
 

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To be quite frank, it is clear that you do not know what you are talking about. The liberal arts is a very wide field of study, far too wide to be summed up by post modernism.
And even is somebody is referring to a *very* specific ideological approach in a liberal arts field (cultural/gender studies; modern comparative literature, etc...), I fail to see what's 'wrong' with postmodernism. To me, pomo doesn't say 'anything goes', 'everybody is right', 'there is no truth/knowledge', etc...; it simply wants you think carefully about where personal and cultural values ('logic', 'reason', 'truth', etc...) come from as well as how they're 'constructed' (yes--that 'dreaded' word) in cultures/societies. I've never met a self-proclaimed 'postmodernist' who believes that it's possible to be politically neutral (to be 'above' all cultural ideologies)--or that a political orientation disqualifies a belief from further consideration. To succeed in those specific liberal arts fields (from what I've observed), you still have to do research and argue your points well; you can't BS your way through while quoting a handful of 'popular' theorists.
 

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As someone who's actually doing that exact degree right now, don't do the bio portion unless you are prepared to have to deal with every other science as well. Don't expect to go in and receive pure biology. I'm sure I don't have to say this, but since you mention you only consider yourself good in biology - everything is interconnected.
It is true.
Most bio degree requires introductory calculus, chemistry and physics courses..and sometimes organic chem too. There's also stats for the sciences and later on biostats if going for biology with thesis option.
 

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I wish I had a literature major under my belt. I've been a professional for nine years and it's great, but there's a certain critical ability lit majors develop from reading and comprehension. I'm working on attaining a BA in that field now as I continue to work.
 
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