Despite my previous ramblings on the real meaning behind higher education, I still think that English as a major doesn’t get enough credit. (Yes, I am an English major, but you should know that I switched my major sophomore year from Media Production. These thoughts were part of the reason I switched—in other words this feeling was more the cause of my change, not the result. I’m also kind of tired of the first question I get asked is “What are you going to do with that?” quickly followed by “Are you going to be a teacher?” I think the major can be much more valuable than generally perceived.)
In my opinion, life is really all about interpretation—everyone has a different point of view, and every interaction/experience is a matter of using our own personal interpretations to “read” (pun intended) other people/situations/etc. Through the study of the written word we learn to refine our own interpretation, as well as experience the interpretations of others.
Literature provides the opportunity to travel to distant lands, meet different kinds of people, and experience/learn new things. Whether fiction or non, the opportunity for a new experience is always there. I can take what I read and analyze it in terms of my own beliefs. I can agree with it, disagree with it, learn from it, laugh at it, escape with it, or even be inspired by it. The possibilities are endless—biographies, novels, poems, criticism, blogs, journals, etc. Each can transport me to a different time, place, or state of mind.
Reading and writing also go hand in hand. I believe reading more (and reading various forms of writing) will improve writing skills. Writing can also help to gain insight into becoming a better reader, for writing helps to sort out ideas in a more concrete way.
Therefore I think the English major can be beneficial to almost any type of career. Reading (interpreting) and writing are skills needed in almost every profession. I think I have learned to be so open and accepting as a result of my interest in reading and the exposure to different ideas it has given me. I think it provides a good foundation to build upon other skills, such as communication and interaction.
Now this is not to say other majors are not as valuable…I just think English is perhaps misunderstood as an area of study. Rather than be seen as a “useless” major, I think it should be celebrated as an advantageous study in that literature is really a reflection of life.
My two cents about it anyway.