When I went to college it was for the sake of figuring my life out while developing what we’ll call internal assets that’d mature.
I’d only matured enough to know I hadn’t come close to maturing yet.
(Maybe I’ll get there one day?)
And one of my degrees ended up being in English because it was that easy. I know that sounds douchey, but that’s reality: I joined a magazine that offered college credit as payment (lol) and one day realized I was such a finite number of credits towards that degree that I figured hell, let’s take like 5 more classes and make that happen.
Maybe I should frame this — I like education for the internal values. The degrees themselves are usually a stupid measure of anything except a fundamental exposure and possible career qualification trajectory. Weird example: One of the Ph. D candidates in my old lab couldn’t design a sensible experiment for squat, and didn’t seem to intuit how to figure out if a hormone antagonist made a subject hungrier….which is to say she didn’t go “hey let’s administer this hormone and see if they consume more food!” Their experiment design — something they worked hard to think about and come up with to propose — would have been costly, indirect, confounded to bitsies and mean to rats.
That person is a Ph D now.
Meanwhile, when Dr. Kristal ended up chewed my chaw out he said, “I think you’re very bright, but I think there are people who will work harder than you and go farther.”
And there’s an expert opinion on how I’m not indispensable for being the guy in this example who did propose “Um, is there something I’m missing or why aren’t we just injecting this hormone here and measuring how much the subjects consume?” and along with a solid “So what?” that I did.
And even if my model was the experiment that was run, I agree with my lab overlord that I coitenly didn’t deserve to be a Ph. D candidate just for that. Moreover, there’re definitely better scientists out there than both of us, and many of them don’t have higher degrees.
Degree is for a career. Value is for life.
And with that said, English programs can bring real value. I underestimated it back when, but today I’m tackling some work challenges in a technology field that are making me appreciate running through that a lot.
Working smart is the most valuable way to work, and I’m thinking today that an English program can teach you how to apply smarts to engage technical situations without being a technical specialist yourself, or own nontechnical engagements better than most other majors could.
(Disclaimer: that is not to say you can walk in and be on par with a technical expert like you’re fucking Iron Man. The beauty is that you don’t need to be a technical expert to engage and work with one very well, and that today’s best English majors should be able to do this extra extra well.)
When my income was entirely reliant on tutoring CADS students, I came across quite a few who said things like “I’m in COLLEGE.” I remember one girl shouting this with a zeal that made COLLEGE hitting my ear holes like “CAHLLAJ!” while I was a room full of people who’ve been doing that and then wondering why we’re declaring this out loud.
Yes, this person came from a rougher background.
And there are many reasons folks from rougher backgrounds often don’t expect more than B’s. It’s a big deal to just make it to class when your belief is that it’s a big deal that you just made it to class….and this is distinct from the elation of being a tourist.
Well most universities and colleges run like businesses now — and it’s reality that a customer who’s excited to be a customer is an excited customer. In this case, more than seeing you get B’s, these institutions are much more excited to sell you reprinted editions with punctuation changes for a premium, or dining dollars so you can buy bottled water. It’s sad because businesses will sell you whatever shit you’re willing enough to buy. Want a cup of heavy cream with melted chocolate for 6 bucks? BAM, starbucks has got you. Want a movie of some petite barbie making a dookie in a hotel shower? Ok wtf, but internet has got you.
So if college majors can be determined by market demand (“if”) then an English major can be like one of those hot chocolate degrees. Seriously. It comes with a cost that’s way, way less if you make your own version at home.
One of my favorite lessons from English class was about how the first English programs began as hobby. That studying books was like, studying movies or video games.
(That’s a comparison that’s going to keep aging hilariously, ain’t it?)
It’s like the program was never really for the sake of having the degree, or something.
And sure, there are just some bad lessons you can take from an English program– you might have the notebook which could be calamitous of you want to be a writer.
You might “learn” that writing more and too much is better and laudatory.
You could learn how to surf and coast and show up to your class in pajamas and nothing more.
You might meet anxy gals who are trying to disguise problematic upbringings or norms as groovy interesting poet-stuff alongside some accompanying interest in your Other, and learn some doodoo there too.
Hell, you could even learn to be a pretentious and pompous gasbag who ends up as a morally craven relic of a day gone past who constantly craves an overriding validation from others in everything you do to countermand a latent and subconscious recognition of one’s increasing irrelevance and, hell, maybe that existential anx will stop just being a fun phrase and develop into a serious complex where you end up as someone’s crazy uncle just because you let that devolve you, hard.
It could happen.
But for me? Yeah I’m getting internal thrills from being able to rise with competence — I think my English major has been weirdly valuable towards enabling that.
Hard research is a discipline of its own. Knowing where the nitty gritty details are, how to replicate, reproduce, get granular and obscure, knowing how to really touch a pattern to elucidate — hard research. But I’d say the real benefit of English major is a little different, and knowing how to soft-research hard (how to worm your way to a practical result) or how to add value from and to cold hard research (synergize and align with expertise.)
In my correct opinion, hard research itself is best done outside an English major. Within the degree it tends to result in lots of really really pompous name and word dropping dumbassery wherein learners act like saying Sarte and Foucault makes you smart. While I can panopticon within that, to this day I appreciate one pain in the ass foil of a professor who wanted to beat his class relentlessly until they got his version of hard research required to ace Criticism 330.
(Oh how appropriate.)
Guy will critically kick your ass. He kicked mine.
I love to death this professor’s integrity and ambition, but I meant it when I said he was a hard-research foil.
Hard research also takes yourself out of the equation because you are full of foolishness, bias, and a challenge to the objective conclusion.
An English program isn’t the optimal environment to learn that in.
(It’s like, dehumanizing a pursuit of truth is best done out of the humanities or something.)
I didn’t understand what this teacher wanted until I got knocked over for trying. Had two professors yell at me in UB, but this is the guy who was 100% correct. But the hard research requirement his class offered didn’t come close to touching the biggest value of the program. Learning hard research is wonderful, but better done in a more technical program.
Ok, then what’s the value?
Well, a lot of English major is sweet enough to encourage candidates to explore creativity.
That’s invaluable too, but not the program’s best value.
A lot of English major is class participation. Learning how to raise your hand and add to a discussion, especially when, let’s face it, so many of your professors are bullshitting as an open fact, so you can learn how to be cool while engaging foreign concepts. But that’s not the best value either.
A lot of English major is writing. You learn what you can produce with a keyboard, you learn deadlines, and you learn how to frame a case with words to score. That’s been great, but not it either.
Strangely, I’d say a lot of English major is learning the value of business. Business is a fine major too, but it doesn’t teach business the same way does it?
English classes involve walking in and saying “Wtf is going on in this room and what is our business? For I am here to look for the value, articulate it, and add.” Labs and projects aside, business majors know they have to walk in and pass a test — very different.
Hell, English majors have to study Shakespeare, not because it’s that “good” but because that’s the industry-accepted gold-standard of the middle-English classic and if you want English as a degree you’ll have to literally learn how to read another version of your language, sucka.
(“Also there’s a new Shakespeare book you’ll need to buy the latest edition of even though he’s been dead for hundreds of years lol you figure it out.”)
I’d say the most ideal English majors, or at least my favorites, were people who found the program “easy” but still challenged themselves to sharpen some talent. These are folks with a knack for writing a letter because they felt like it. These are folks who can listen and demonstrate a real curiosity about something you just shared. These are the folks with an opinion on wtf just happened in that scene. These are the folks who can present an argument you don’t agree with in a way you have trouble disagreeing with.
Know what all of the above ends up equating to?
Smart beeznees skeels. When you can understand the assignment and add a valuable spin, you’re doing it right. If you can do that with the written word, you’ll be talented in those classes. And omg, if you can present your strokes on the heart of an argument
Sure you’ll get a good grade in a silly college course, but you’ll also do just fine within business roles that don’t necessitate a strict specialist, and you’re going to be able to stand out in any workplace. And bonus, if you can actually deliver smart work why wouldn’t you do very well in this world? Hell, not saying I’m awfully amazing consistently, if I take a stab at something you can bet you’ll find a hole.
I still think English major is a hot chocolate degree.
Fun fact: After black coffee, hot chocolate is my preferred order at starbucks.
HC is just a treat to be able to bring to the table, and English major-y skills are best backed against another discipline — just like no one should be living off of hot chocolate.
I give this rant a C+
(Maybe a B-)