Why Everyone Should Be An English Major

PileOBooksAs I discovered a few years ago, deciding to get your undergraduate degree in English – especially when you are a student of non-traditional age – is an open invitation for confusion and ridicule.

Nobody ever questioned me when I was a marketing major or a business management major or an accounting major or a computer science major (I had a lot of majors), but when I finally committed to being an English major, people looked at me askance. Potential employers reviewed my resume and demanded explanations for my strange path. My friends tut-tutted. My parents stared at each other in horror. Why? everyone asked. Why in the world would you get an English degree? What are you going to DO with it?

Quite a lot, actually. In fact, I’m going to boldly state that the older I get, the more I think every English-speaking person should be an English major, even if they DON’T want to be a writer or work at the Starbucks!  So there!

All right, all right. Calm down.  I know that’s a little extreme.  But just consider this – when you pursue a degree in English, you….

  • Learn how to interpret incomprehensible stuff.

You think that spreadsheet you’re working on is hard to understand? Please. Try reading anything written by James Joyce and interpreting it in a meaningful fashion – then we’ll talk.

  • Learn how to present your ideas clearly and intelligibly.

Let’s face it, what the world needs now isn’t love – it’s business people who can actually write an email that makes sense and gets their point across.

  • Learn how to compose a sentence, a paragraph, and a paper.

See comment above. You need the tools before you can produce.

  • Learn how to organize your thoughts.

Compare and contrast the personification of evil in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Dante’s Inferno. GO! Can’t do it? Wimp.

  • Learn how to be creative.

After you’ve had to write, not one, but several essays on the deep truths supposedly hidden in “A Rose for Emily,” you know the real meaning of creativity.  (more of my thoughts on “A Rose for Emily” here.)

  • Learn how to do research and support your opinions.

Opinions are grand and glorious, but it’s often wise to look into them a little bit before spouting them all over the universe. Document, people!

  • Are forced to read all sorts of literature.

The professors make you read things and think about them and maybe even grow your mind or expand your horizons a little bit. Bastards! (although, granted, I could have done without the novel where the kid thought he was a pig and pooped all over the kitchen floor.)

In short, pursuing an English degree helps you learn how to think, and how to communicate your thoughts and ideas. What’s wrong with that? Nothing! Where can you use it? Everywhere!

Okay, yes, I guess we need doctors and lawyers and business people and other professions too. But being an English major means you can comment thoughtfully on the Christ-imagery at the end of Harry Potter book 7, and that’s a good thing. Thinking is good, and the world needs a lot more of it.

In my humble opinion.


“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

-William Shakespeare

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