Grievances of a Humanities Major

I often argue that being a humanities major is harder than people think, and I stand by this.  Majors within the humanities department are often looked down upon by those in other majors as being easier and requiring less work, but this is simply not true.  And before any health science or biochemistry majors scoff at me I am in no way insinuating that humanities majors have it harder than STEM majors.  Trust me, I could never do what you do.  All I’m saying is that humanities majors face our own set of adversities and these hardships are just as valid as those experienced in other fields.  As a religious studies major, as well as a Middle East and Islamic Studies minor, I speak from experience when I say that being a humanities major brings with it a daunting course load and an even more daunting stigma.

First, I’ll cover the obvious: the workload.  While we’re not out here solving impossible equations or learning how to perform surgery, I’d argue we’re still doing our share.  I consider it a light workload if I only have 100 pages to read for my two religion classes on Tuesday.  And besides the amount of reading assigned, the content does not come from straightforward textbooks.  No, we’re reading scholarly, philosophical, historical, mentally-draining, and frankly sometimes completely incomprehensible texts.  And on top of that, we’re expected to closely read, annotate, understand, and critically think about these texts and then talk about them in class.  It can be a bit mind-numbing to say the least, especially since there are no wrong answers, because while that sounds great it essentially means there are no right answers either.  Take that as you will.  Now, to only mention the reading involved would be criminal as a large part of any humanities major is the writing. For me personally, it’s the weekly essays and blog posts that kill me but the semester-long presentations deserve some credit as well.  But, don’t get me wrong I really enjoy my major and how it makes me think and exposes me to ideas, cultures, and people I never would have known otherwise, it’s just that the amount of reading we do on top of the essays we write and the discussions we have can be draining to say the least.  This is why it irritates me when people insinuate we have it easy.

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My second point centers around the difficulties humanities majors face outside of school. From experience, I can say that adults rarely take you seriously when you tell them you're a humanities major.  (Unless maybe you’re a political science major because that’s an easy one for people to comprehend).  At least for me personally, and I’m sure for many others, when I tell people about my religious studies major their first question is either, “What are you planning on doing with that?” or “Are you going to be a Priest?”.  Which, to answer that second one, is a definite and emphatic no.  I understand the point of college is to figure out the rest of your life but I haven’t quite done that yet and that’s okay.  Yet, I constantly get subtly, and not so subtly, shamed for not picking a major that yields an obvious career choice.  I know for a fact that when students say their major is biology or economics, or business, for example, the response is usually, “That's a smart choice,” or “There’s a great market for that,” (which, what does that even mean? It’s such a broad statement yet it’s thrown around all the time).  But I digress.  All I’m really saying is that just because someone is a biology major does not mean they’re going to be a biologist, they’re trying to figure it out too! I have literally resorted to telling adults that I plan on going to law school after undergrad, even though I don’t, for the sole purpose of avoiding the conversation where they insinuate how pointless my degree is.  Although I know their intention is to help me, it quite honestly does the opposite.

I would love to be good at math or science, or technology, and have a plethora of different, clear career paths I could take after college.  I didn’t choose the humanities path because it’s “easier'' or “less work” I chose it because it’s how my mind works and it’s what I’m good at.  Humanities majors are just as valid and useful as any other major and I’m sick of people delegitimizing our choices because they don’t see the value in them.  So, to sum it all up I hope by now you can see that being a humanities major is not all sunshine and Sigmund Freud, it’s hard work and it’s constantly being questioned for your choices, but it’s truly where myself and many others believe we can do our best work and contribute the most to society.

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