Monday, October 3, 2011

Who Needs An English Major?

This weekend your MatchGirl had the opportunity to hear American RadioWorks "Who Needs An English Major?" on WNYC.

As I've been thinking, gentle readers, about the state of our educational system of late (in posts such as Jobs For The Future? Rethink Education and Higher Education Reform?), this was a special that certainly piqued my interest. As someone who went to a good liberal arts college - a small, private university in New England - this is something I think about and have some opinions on.

I spent most of my twenties trying to figure out what to do next, following my fears instead of my dreams, and not pushing myself to achieve much more than what I was doing at that exact moment. I deferred, though never defaulted, on college loans and, to that end, still have a few years of payments left to go as I approach my thirty-sixth birthday. Sometimes, this makes me crazy.

But then I think of what I got out of that education. Sure. I'm not a doctor or a lawyer. Though many of my classmates are. I certainly didn't marry my college sweetheart, I never really had one. But I learned to be different among people who were the same. I learned that standing out is not so bad. I learned to speak my mind and to question authority. I learned about the power of community and the power that can come from not only common interests, but from disparate ones.

Could I have learned these things at my state university? Sure. I probably could have. A lot of people I went to high school with went on to college in our hometown and have thrived. Though some are still treading water.

But what would not have happened, had I gone to my local university is this - I would not have learned to spread my wings and fly. The school was too close to the safety net of my mom and dad. Too close to the social life of high school. Too close to who I was known to be, not to who I could become.

I don't know if people need to go to small liberal arts colleges, they're not for everyone. They were never meant to be.

But I do know that people need to learn to jump. And that they need to figure out how to pick themselves up when they fall. For me, studying studio art, running a college radio station, booking bands and getting lost walking around Boston in 1993, these are all things that helped me learn to fly. These are all experiences that made me the adult I have become. And will guide me through my future.

Well rounded, intelligent, interested people, they are what make the world an amazing place. And they very often are products of liberal arts educations - not business schools.

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