I have learned the hard way that the news that I am majoring in history often does not elicit the kind of response one would hope for. There are those, such as our very own JHU_Nick, who unabashedly ask how I’m going to enjoy my future unemployment. Others inquire as to what grade I’m planning on teaching (see me interact with children, and you’ll know why that career path is off limits). But more often than not, I receive a look of poorly masked puzzled confusion and the question – but why?
There was a time when these reactions bothered me. It was jarring at first to step outside of the warm bubble of acceptance that is my family’s mindset, and realize that not everyone is as supportive as my parents have been about my decision to major in the humanities. Many people are tragically incapable of expanding their limited outlooks to see all the amazing benefits of being a humanities major. It seems incomprehensible to some that I can have history as my academic area of interest, but with no intent on making it my future vocation.
I remember attending a history-specific information session at one of the universities I was considering. The head of the department was explaining the handouts being passed around, and called one “propaganda for your parents.” I laughed, but quickly realized that he was not joking. The sheet he was referring to was actually a list of all the potential professions one could enter with a degree in history, intended to reassure mommies and daddies that their children will indeed be able to support themselves post-graduation. It was shocking to me that the department had been faced with the need to create such a sheet – that students had to convince their parents to allow them to major in this subject.
I decided to write this blog in attempt to bring awareness to the unfair stigma often associated with the humanities. Not only have I learned to read and write at a level at which two years ago I would have never thought possible, but I have enjoyed the process. Interactions with my professors and peers has helped me discover the best way to articulate my ideas and argue my opinions. My transcript does not show a resume, but a list of the courses, ideas, and people who have shaped me into the person I am today.
Maybe this blog will help encourage your parents to accept your decision to be a liberal arts major. Maybe you’ll be aware of your reaction next time someone tells you they are majoring in the humanities. Or maybe you’ll be like JHU_Nick and continue to make jokes like “where’s the best place to find a history major – the unemployment line!”
Regardless of the effect, I want to say that I am a humanities student and proud of it. The past two summers I have enjoyed internships at a New York City magazine and a London publishing house – both positions which required applicants to have humanities degrees. I feel secure in my future, confident that the education I have received from my humanities degree has prepared me for whatever the post-graduation world has in store. I take classes in subjects many would label as useless but I would label as fascinating. I am doing what I love, and what it comes down to it, what more of a reason is needed?