“You’re in English? You can’t do anything with that.”
Philosophy, History, English, Drama, Music, Fine Arts; these are just some of the many programs of study that a Bachelor of Arts Degree offers. Unfortunately, BA students seem to fall victim to many misconceptions and assumptions that are projected towards them by those who believe studying arts is no more than a waste of time.
Being an English major myself, I have been on the receiving end of ignorant comments from those who believe that taking English in University is a waste of an education, a waste of a degree, and a waste of time. Personally, I am a strong believer that as long as you are studying what you love, time is not wasted.
I decided to approach this problem by interviewing a few English professors, as well as students from other BA programs, to gather their views on this issue.
“Over the years,” commented Dr. Melissa Walker, a professor for the School of English and Theatre Studies (SETS) at the University of Guelph, “I have indeed encountered various ignorant comments pertaining to the perceived simplicity and futility of obtaining an English studies education.”
One comment that she remembers to this day was, “It’s just English, right? Everyone knows English.”
“I know people have that assumption,” stated Dr. Marianne Micros, an English Professor for SETS at the U of G, “‘There's nothing you can do with an English degree,’ when in fact there are many places (businesses, stores, etc.) that want someone who has learned to think, read, and write well. We have graduates go on into law, business, etc., and not just teaching.”
When asked for his opinion on this issue, Nick Hegedus, a Philosophy major at the University of Guelph, said, “The most common response I get when I tell people my program is the assumption that I have no plan when it comes to a career, while in reality I’ve had a plan since I first applied.”
The truth is, there are many career paths out there for those with Bachelor of Arts Degrees in anything from English to Philosophy to History. These career opportunities include marketing, journalism, teaching, law, human resources, speech-language pathology, travel and tourism, and communications. These are just some of the options that are out there for those who were educated to think objectively and analytically, as well as develop the required skills to produce well-written essays.
These skills are difficult to acquire. Those who tell me my program is a joke are the same people who ask me to edit their papers, or ask for advice on how to get through an extensive reading in a short amount of time.
“On more than one occasion I have been approached by friends who are part of the science and math realm of university life with hopes that I can look over and edit their papers before they are submitted to professors,” explained Lindsey Legge, a History major at the University of Guelph.
“I think that the development of skills such as writing and analysis of texts are the most valuable element of my studies”, added Hegedus.
There you have it Guelph. Whether you are studying the functions of the human body, solving a math equation, or writing a critical essay, each program of study requires hard work and dedication. Furthermore, graduating with a BA is not useless nor a waste of money. The bottom line: study what you love, and respect other peoples’ education and career choices. Ignorance helps no one, and only places a dividing line between students, preventing us from learning from one another.
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