This I Believe

Jeff - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on August 2, 2007

English Majors Need Better PR

America, I believe English majors need a better PR campaign. We get a bad rap because no one, outside those of us who received this degree and those who taught us, know what the hell it is that we learned in college. Thus, in the “real world”—where America is more concerned with making money and being in first place than in living rich, rewarding lives –we get no respect. After all, what good is the study of humanity in a society that prefers humans act as little like humans as possible in return for mind-numbing careers and lots of green paper that buys shiny plastic wares and electronics that again distract us from what it means to be human. In such a society, we English majors are more of a nuisance than a national treasure. The machine is moving fast and it is ever-so-much more effective when people pretend not to have emotions or attractions or sexual urges or intuitive instincts. In fact it seems the less human we are, the better we are at our jobs. We can be more calculating, more strategic, more manipulative, make less mistakes. We can write off being human in exchange for being competitive, being good at the game. We have an excuse for not wanting to read heart-warming tales where people find answers to bigger questions in life because these stories have nothing to do with people finding ways to make more money. In fact much of what capitalism is about has been demonized in works of literature for thousands of years. Real literature hits us on a human level and distracts us from the distraction that is what we call “real life.” We then have to stop and feel. We have to question. We have to consider how our place is society is affecting others in the world. We have to consider community. We have to question God. We have to consider what it means to be a human versus other living things. And who wants that? These questions are hard and confusing and tend to slow a person’s motivations for wealth and fame. Isn’t it easier to put on the blinders and put up our dukes and play ball?

But this is about giving English majors a better name. It doesn’t help that so many of us come off in society as morose and withdrawn (as people seem to be when actually pondering a thought that takes more than half a second to conclude). It also doesn’t help that we attempt to speak English with nouns and verbs and often come off as having a large stick up our ass in a culture who’s language has honestly become barely intelligible in some circles. So, what did we learn? We learned how to be analytical and critical thinkers. We learned how to read and understand what we read and form an opinion about what we’ve read. We can argue. We can convince. We can grasp the big picture and narrow in on the nuances. We consider ethics. We question higher powers and deeper meanings. We would make great leaders if we could put down our books and speak up more often, but odds are we would make better writers for great leaders. In fact, many of us are the ones who put the words into president’s mouths (well, not this president—apparently). Everything inspiring that you have ever read or heard come out of someone’s mouth on TV probably came from an English major. English majors find the romance and humanity in the trite and inhumane and attempt to bring a face and a voice to those who struggle to be seen and heard.

So America, I’d like you all to soften your heart-strings a little, turn off the electronics for a moment and think about what our culture might be like if we showed some respect for the writers, artists, musicians (English majors), whom are trying to bring some heart and culture into a world where love and humanity are on the ropes; a culture where men and women unconcerned with matters of the soul are controlling our every waking hour. Think about this next time you see “English” as a degree on a resume. Think about this when you consider how this person might influence your work space. Think about this when you listen to great men and women speak whom you know did not come up with those great lines on their own. We’re necessary America, and we’re falling by the wayside–many of us considering moving to civilized nations more in tune with romanticism and art where our talents might be more appreciated. We’re tired of people with no understanding of what we have learned and what we are capable of asking us, “Why would you get such a useless degree?” We’re not soft for allowing our heart to have a place in our decision making. We’re not “gay” for talking about our feelings, men. And ladies, ask my wife, we make damn fine husbands and lovers. Help us America. Let us use language to bring some beauty into our culture. Help the English majors!