Ok, rant time. This is a topic that has affected my pride deeply, and it's the subject of major-based intellect. What I mean by this term is subconsciously, or even consciously, attributing a level of intelligence to an individual based on the perceived difficulty of their major. The infamous business major stereotype is a perfect example of this. At Baylor, it's common to say phrases like "business by Christmas" or business majors have it easy.
Truthfully, I used to partake in dumbing down business majors because it made my major feel more prestigious. However, after several incidences of experiencing my own major and intellect being depreciated, I've come to discover this: majors are not an accurate measurement of an individual's intelligence, and in believing they are, it promotes unfair stereotypes.
To begin, here's a little about me. I am a Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) major with a concentration in speech pathology. I like to say I am "speech path," though, with the excuse that my major title is too long. However, to be honest, I mainly say this because I don't want to be confused as a Communications major whose coursework is belittled due to its heavy association as the "football player major" and stereotyped as less esteemed (totally unfair, and I have stopped this mindset, by the way). I am an honors student, Baylor writing tutor, research assistant to the chair of the CSD department, and more. I feel confident enough to say that yeah, I am smart, but this doesn't always seem to be shared with other people.
Upon telling people I am a speech pathology major, among many, their attitude shifts slightly. I can't quite describe it, but it's more of an "Oh, OK" response versus the "Woah!" I got when I was previously pre-physical therapy. I've thought about why this occurs towards my major. Is it because people aren't aware of what speech pathology is? Possibly, but a common response I get is some sort of comment on my major's high sorority makeup. Whether it's angled towards mentioning how many *insert sororities* girls they know in the major or asking if that's the major with a lot of sorority girls, there seems to be a recurring theme.
So, I've come to a conclusion: intellectual capacity is generally based not only on the rigor of the major but also the student stereotype associated with it. Think about it, when we talk about business majors, more often than not, there's a mental image of a fraternity guy bathing in his daddy's money. Because this is a negative stereotype most of us can't relate with, we feel turned off by the major the stereotype represents, making it natural for us to discredit it. The stereotype also ties into the amount of prestige a major has. By this I mean, the student stereotype also comes with a level of intellect, which contributes to "determining" a major's level of honor. For instance, sorority girls are unfairly represented as ditzy and unconcerned with academia, making a sorority concentrated major seem less esteemed. But this is clearly wrong; some of the smartest women I know are in sororities.
OK, so we know there's a stereotype component but then there's the assumed rigor of a major. It's fair to conclude the harder the coursework the more laudable the major is, which is why Baylor pre-meds are the major gods of the school. But what determines a major's difficulty of coursework? For instance, I could not imagine doing engineering, it's simply not my forte, so I think engineering is one of the hardest majors, whereas an engineering major may think my writing intensive courses are too difficult for them. So, there's a disparity between defining what is "hard" within that definition. We could make the argument that difficulty is determined by the amount of coursework.
This seems to be the case concerning this topic. It is proven that, for instance, engineering students spend five more hours studying than science or business majors. Because of this, we're going to attribute engineering to be harder, thus more distinguished. And because it's more distinguished, are we not going to stereotype engineering students to be smarter than say, business majors?
However, this is where some discrepancy comes in. If we solely determine students in heavier courseloads as inevitably more intelligent, we are forgetting to take into account other factors, such as the student's ability to excel in the major. To clarify, engineering may be a hard major, but that doesn't equivocate to an engineering student being able to do well at it, which delegitimizes the point of major-based intellect. Even then, just because a student is doing poorly in their major, does not mean they lack academic merit.
At the end of the day, a major is not what defines the student's intellectual ability. Another question is how we determine intellectualism, but let's not get into that today. My point is that it's unfair to promote stereotypes and discredit students based solely on their major. There is credibility in every major, whether we see it or not. With all of this being said, I am smarter than my major says I am!