Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do you even remember what you majored in?

I liked this piece by Kate Zernike in the New York Times last week, about that whole “What are you going to do with your degree?” issue. I liked it just as much eight months ago when Joan Garrett, at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, took on the slow death of liberal arts at a more micro level, in the University of Tennessee system.

Maybe it is because my friends are Italian and philosophy professors, or maybe it is because I have a masters in international affairs that I never, ever “used” (except to name the fifteen former Soviet republics in under twenty seconds, a party trick I turn to after tying the cherry stem in a knot with my tongue fails to impress). Maybe it is because I went to college with religion majors who became doctors and film majors who became CEOs. Maybe it is because I can’t stand it when parents of 20-year-olds tell me, with a chuckle, that their child had wanted to major in journalism until they managed, using common sense and control of the checkbook, to turn them into business or speech pathology majors. (Not that I recommend a journalism major, or ever did even when there was such a thing as a journalism job, but that’s a post for another day.)

You can blame this attitude on my privileged, sort-of Ivy background. But I worry where we are headed. Do we really want to live in a world where there is nobody who knows a [boat]load about Yiddish poetry or Moorish architecture or Hannibal Hamlin?