Being a Mount Allison freshman has provided me with the opportunity to meet many different types of people in a rather short period of time. People I meet often ask, “Hey! What’s your major?” – which, I admit, is a rather harmless question. But as one of the first things you tell someone about yourself, it tends to carry a lot of weight regarding first impressions.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that there is a negative stigma attached to English majors. In fact, I have found that my major has been discredited by my peers for being less important and even less academically challenging than a science or commerce major. However, this assumption isn’t always malicious. For example, if you hear “English major” and think, “Oh, that person likes books,” you’re probably right. If you hear that and automatically think said person wants to become a teacher or lawyer, you’re certainly generalizing, but haven’t done anything wrong.
That said, I get a lot of questions asking what I plan on doing with my English degree once I finish university. More often than not, these questions are paired with either a disgusted scoff or an eye roll, as people often assume I won’t be able to do much with it. On more than one occasion I have been told by those around me that what I chose to study will be “the worst decision of my life” and that I should have gone to nursing school like I had initially planned. Do comments like these bother me? Yes. However, I am more than well aware that there are safer roads to a career and that such questions and comments – from friends, relatives, acquaintances – are prompted more out of concern than malice.
Personally, I find it rather disheartening when people assign value judgments to someone based on their area of study when, in reality, the only conclusion you can draw about someone based on their major is their major.
However, it isn’t just English majors who get this type of backlash. I’ve come across many people on campus who seemingly discredit fine arts majors, saying that their area of study is nothing more than overly priced arts and crafts. However, these people fail to realize that although fine arts majors may not be studying out of textbooks, they work just as hard as anyone else. On more than one occasion I have seen fine arts majors trickling in and out of the Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts at 3 a.m. trying to finish their final projects with an 8 a.m. class the next day. This solidifies my opinion that you can study anything and become a well-versed and intelligent member of society – whether that be English and literature, computer science or engineering. And on the same note, you can study anything and learn absolutely nothing at all.
The intention of this article is not to call out other departments, but to draw attention to the fact that all majors are equally important. In my opinion, the Mt. A campus would be a much happier place if everyone felt as if their talents and majors were valid. If we want to live in a society free of judgment and stereotypes, valuing people’s varying interests and strengths is an important practice. That said, I highly encourage everyone to use whatever field they chose to study as a beacon to spread positivity in the world instead of casting negative judgments in a society that hates to find a silver lining.