If you are a college student, you have likely been met with a plethora of questions from curious family and friends who want to receive the inside scoop on the “Modern College Experience.” In my experience with this, people from past generations have a variety of perspectives on what they think college is now. I have a lot of family who are happy to see me thrive on my own and are cheering me on as I collect real-world “adult” experiences. However, sometimes even your most supportive family-friends will make backhanded remarks implying that the modern college experience isn’t what they would deem “practical.”
People are generally supportive, but I know that we have all heard complaints about how the modern university system is brainwashing kids with its “liberal agenda” (I’ve never appreciated this, as students can think for themselves, but I digress). This rhetoric is commonly met with gripes about liberal arts majors. Supposedly, people who enroll in fields such as sociology or women’s studies are wasting their time and money on something impractical that will not bolster their credibility in the job market.
This begs the question: is there something wrong with a young person wanting to educate themselves on a field that they are actually skilled in or passionate about, regardless of what the market dictates? Or should the blame be redirected to a job market that is highly rigid in its glamorization of STEM and business fields in order to convince young people to follow where the money goes?
Everyone is out to make money. That is perfectly understandable in a society that places so much value on the quantitative measures of a person’s productivity, primarily their income. With that said, when a young person is self-aware and emotionally mature enough to understand that some majors are not entirely profitable but will allow them to contribute to society and do what they love, they should be encouraged to follow this path.
This is not always a realistic path, as these young people are often burdened with constant reminders of how little money they might make in the future. Rather than helping them figure out how to “make it” while doing what they love, we belittle them for not pursuing a degree that looks fancier and will make them more profitable. Liberal arts degrees should be much more profitable as it is, as creatives in these fields exert valiant efforts into their work, but this may be a conversation for another day. For now, we can make the small step of not mocking people for their major of choice.
College-aged people are met with constant pressure to conform in aspects of their life that have nothing to do with their education or profession. We only add on to this pressure by questioning the intelligence and work ethic of those who pursue a degree in arts and social justice-based fields. These fields prompt people to think outside of the box and to question the world around them in productive ways. This should be encouraged as the world needs a diverse set of thinkers to function. For every lab worker or engineer who keeps society going through their genius and innovation, there should be someone who bolsters the work of these people by bringing in a creative or artistic lens.
If all students graduated college with the most market-friendly degree possible, society would experience no innovation. There is a slump in creativity as it is because people are encouraged to pursue marketability when they go to college. We can no longer refer to this system as the “education system,” as it does not encourage education. It encourages teaching young, impressionable people how to fit the standards that society has imposed upon them for years. This is not education. Nobody learns this way; we learn when we pursue lifestyles that we are passionate about. This is why people, particularly from past generations, should stop shaming kids who pursue liberal arts degrees. These students are wildly creative, and it takes courage to be creative in a market that prioritizes quantitative over qualitative achievement.