There is a certain "coming of age" question we start getting that no one warned us about. Once you begin your senior year of high school, all anyone wants to know about is what college you're going to and what you'll be studying.
People seem to value certain interests over others. We have been told from a young age to "follow our dreams" however, as someone "studying" English, people always give me that smile and say "Well, at least you're pursuing a passion." which sounds achingly familiar to the way good old southern women say "Well, bless her heart". Trust me, I get it. I know the implications of choosing such an unstable major, but come on. Liberal Arts are the ancient forms of education. Not trying to be cliche, but Galileo studied philosophy and look where he ended up... in your textbook.
For thousands of years, the seven liberal arts were the most prestigious areas of study but modern society looks down on them. These included music, logic, grammar, and language. The basic foundation for education and core of modern civilization lay within the areas of study that seem most unstable today. Even still, we incorporate the liberal arts into our education but seem futile in further examination because they don't "make money" and seem necessary to us. Where would we be without these men who considered thinking an art form?
English is considered the 7th most pointless major on dailybeast.com (although I bet that author feels a bit hypocritical since he is writing for a mediocre blog) which is fine, but why are we always putting the arts down? I think having a major that encompasses the things you care about is a practical way of ensuring success in your career. I'm not saying solely major in English, Art or Photography because I think you could use a second major as a catalyst for a job, but I am saying it is okay to do what you love. For example, if I was your doctor, I wouldn't know the flu from chicken pocks. If I was your civil engineer, I promise that your roads would be messed up. Then how are you going to get to your office job? Trust me, you want me in the corner reading my book.
Likewise, you don't want me painting a mural on your local brick wall. The last thing you want is an untrained person being paid to fling permanent paint on your neighborhood wall. I would love to walk down College Avenue and see more art. It is a vital part of our community's culture. Without people who are pushed to pursue art, we would see far less painting and far more vandalizing. When young bright minded individuals are given the right tools, they can turn something average into a phenomenal change in a community.
I listened to a TED talk (linked below) about urban art once and it changed my view of a lot of community. Passion is the way to educational success. If a kid who has nothing to love realizes he is a kid who loves music, then we should applaud that. What is the difference between another Pre-Med student and another Music Education student? On the surface, it might seem like one is smarter than the other, but I think it takes a lot of guts to realize you could make a bigger impact in the world by being a musician or painter than being a surgeon. I have a friend who loves Chemistry so much he decided to be a Chem major. That is amazing. But what about me? I love reading, but when I tell you I am majoring in English I get the sad soft smile. I can tell people my plans about double majoring and becoming an Editor/Publisher in NYC and wanting to work to promote inner-city childhood education and helping raise the literacy rates, but I honestly believe people are immediately turned off by the idea of my spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours reading. I wish people would listen to why I chose what I did. I think education is the way out of poverty. Educating the next generation needs to be a priority because through education we find passion. Kids need to be given the opportunity to branch out and learn everything there is to know in a fun and engaging way! With this, they would be more willing to continue an education in an area they actually care about instead of what is more socially expected.
Someone once asked me why I was passionate about English and I said, "As a reader, I become enchanted by experiencing other peoples thoughts. They transport me to their world instead of relying on my thoughts to create my own world. It gives me a moment to relax and live in something I do not have to create. When reading, I am given ideas that never occurred to me. As a writer, I am also taken to another world. The only difference is it is a world I have created. It is a parallel place to the one I live in, but it is not the same. Although it is from my mind, the characters still write their own story." I want others to be able to feel the way I feel about something. Whether it be art, English, chemistry, film, or basket weaving, at least there are people making steps to pursuing the things they love. So never look at someone with a liberal art major and wonder what they'll do with their lives. Be proud that they're willing to take those risky steps to being something more than who they are now. Be thankful there was someone in their life that guided them to be passionate and excited. Be hopeful that they will be successful. Be supportive of their decision. It is a scary decision, but it is one that has a great pay-off when they get finished writing their last 25-page paper about an ancient Viking story you never even knew existed.
Click "Listen to Full Show" to hear a TED Radio Hour about art (community center/urban art section included):
PHYSICAL LINK TO TED RADIO HOUR about art (community center/urban art section included):