Even before I came to college, I noticed a certain amount of dissent towards humanities majors.
People tend to view a humanities education as pointless because it can be difficult to see how some of the subjects in that field transfer to relevant jobs in the future. To a certain extent this is understandable - earning money as a historian or writer is stereotypically a challenge and careers in medicine, business, and other popular fields are publicized as being preferable to the humanities.
However, studying the humanities is so much more relevant than many people realize, and the skills that humanities students learn can readily lead to success.
The term "humanities" covers a wide range of fields, including literature, languages, philosophy, history, and many other subjects. In essence, studying the humanities focuses on human culture with an emphasis on an overarching understanding of the human experience in an attempt to address the challenges we face as people. Humanities students tend to develop strong writing skills and learn how to think critically about pertinent issues, which is relevant to countless careers.
I became an English major because I believe that becoming a skilled writer with training in analysis and critical thinking is both important and widely useful in today's world. The English Department at the University of Washington is structured to expose students to a variety of literary works and theories with the intent to encourage individuals who are well-versed in communication skills and know how to write effectively. As someone passionate about literature and writing, I decided that this was the best path that would lead to a fulfilling college experience and careers that correspond with my interests.
When I say that I'm an English major, many people have asked me if I want to be a teacher or a novelist. It seems as though most majors in the humanities are perceived in similar light as fields limited to teaching and one or two other careers. In reality, most subjects in the humanities are incredibly flexible because they focus on developing critical thinking skills. This opens humanities majors up to a wide variety of occupations and areas of research.
It's frustrating to me how little value we place on an education in the humanities as a society. The word "humanities" automatically triggers condescension from many people, and interns in related fields are often unpaid, as opposed to their tech and STEM counterparts, even though we also do necessary and skilled work.
Perhaps we aren't coding new systems or saving lives through surgery, but that doesn't mean that our work isn't essential to a functioning society. We still need historians, writers, editors, teachers, counselors, and others, and we always will need them.
Humanities students wouldn't pay to attend college if they believed that their majors were purposeless. So before you make a belittling comment about us not being able to find a job or doing irrelevant coursework, take a second to consider that we knew what we were getting into, and if it was as bleak as some people make it out to be, we probably would not have dedicated our time and energy to this course of study.