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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Guest Opinion

How about we all stop being so defensive and try to empathize with each other?

Chang, I get where you’re coming from with your defense of the English major. As an English major myself, I frequently experience condescension from others about the real-world practicality of my field of study. But guess what? So do most people.

“Oh, you’re a psychology major? That’s never going to pay off. Why don’t you study a real science?”

“You study math and science? You must have no creativity and/or people skills.”

At the same time, while Chang is reacting to these kinds of criticisms to his specific major, he is not necessarily belittling other majors. So Vrdoljak, when you write that your major “teach[es] those qualities [better writers, thinkers, and communicators] as well,” you are being just as defensive as Chang. Chang did assent in his first column that “thinking critically is also an important aspect of being a science major.” He was not really focused on attacking science majors, but rather, just on defending his choice of study by pointing out its benefits.

The problem with playing the victim and complaining excessively about the condescension and criticism we receive regarding our interests/values/majors is that we inevitably indicate a perpetrator of prejudice/narrow-mindedness/bigotry. Then, rather than building a shared understanding of how annoying and hurtful it can be to have your passions devalued, we get defensive and destroy the possibility of establishing common ground.

Both of you make valid points. And both of you make some pretty inane statements and conclusions. It is valid to say that English majors are “engaged nonstop in critical analysis and making connections.” It is also valid to say that “studying science helps [people] discover truths about the world.” However, it is silly to say that statistics “are misleading and easily rendered obsolete” without considering their value.

It is perhaps equally silly to say that the study of English is “limited to the transience of language and humanity.” It seems that the times when you are most ridiculous are the times when you are being most defensive. If you could focus on your majors’ values and strengths rather than the attacks you perceive being placed upon them or on making evaluative comparisons between majors, you would both be more convincing.

Let’s not make this personal. Vrdoljak, I think it’s pretty evident that Chang’s column was not about “how wonderful it is to major in English,” but rather about how frustrating it is to feel put upon to defend his field of study. And describing his writing style as “the master storytelling techniques taught exclusively to the master-race of English majors” is not only condescending but also dismissive of what is just journalistic technique.

However, I believe that Vrdoljak is correct in his criticism of Chang’s crude language. By referring to your “douchey” friend and your “second cock” afforded to you by your study, you suggest that you cannot articulate yourself without resorting to clichés and crass humor. Frankly, you’re making the rest of us look bad.

So what I’m suggesting is that we all engage in a little more professionalism and perspective-taking and a little less defensiveness and assumption-making. Instead of focusing on our hurt feelings or perceived attacks against our majors, focus on what we have in common.

And we all need to get used to criticism and condescension, because we will never have everyone agree with and approve of our life choices. Okay? Okay.

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