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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Humanities majors deserve better

Not everyone wants to be a doctor

For the sake of this column, the humanities’ unlikely hero is me. I would like to be taken seriously for once, and I’d like to defend my brothers in English, history, design and all of the other “useless” majors.

Entering my first year at Davis, I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of STEM and the stigma around other majors. I’m just a couple months in, and chemistry, biology and NPB have me in a corner. 

My friends compare problem sets day in and day out, bemoaning the insurmountable tower of work that sits on their desks every night. And then there’s me: the happy-go-lucky English major. 

I love my major – I’m not bemoaning a thing. In fact, I’m loving school. I get to read souped-up fairytales and write essays on literary terms for points. And to top it all off? I get to enjoy all the extracurriculars I want because I have a ton of free time. 

Regardless of all this happiness, some of the odd stares, raised eyebrows and smirks about my major got to me. I decided that I would try my hand at STEM by registering for a biology class this quarter. I felt that since the consensus about liberal arts majors was so wholly negative, there must be some truth to the matter — maybe humanities majors really are a cop-out. 

Let me tell you, there is a special type of dissociation that only occurs when you’re an English major in a biology lecture. 

As I sat down in my first class, I thought to myself: “This is what I’m supposed to be doing! This is what my parents are paying for!” I’m swiveling around in the fun seats in California Hall, my 30 colored highlighters ablaze, topped off with just a little too much caffeine. 

But about thirty minutes in, it dawned on me: “What the hell am I doing here? Why would I subject myself to this? How do people subject themselves to this?”

Sitting in that biology class three days a week for two weeks changed my mind completely. 

The professor was fantastic and California Hall was a dream. The notes were clear and concise, but I just didn’t like it. I couldn’t even pretend to be enjoying it. My passion for ornate graphs and lengthy data tables can only go so far. 

Kids who excel at the humanities are often underlooked in favor of those who are more STEM-oriented. They aren’t considered less intellectual, but their intelligence just isn’t recognized or celebrated in the same way as it is for STEM-oriented students.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been particularly bad at math. I remember the snickers from my third-grade classmates one day when my teacher posted my “C” grade performance among an ocean of “As” for a math homework assignment. The next week, however, my language arts teacher read one of my essays out loud and cried. Despite this, I wasn’t considered a “smart” kid by my peers and, as a result, by myself. 

The truth of the matter, however, is this: No one major is better than another. To be a STEM major — or any major —  and have a superiority complex over other majors is completely bogus, particularly because any of us could’ve clicked the microbiology box over the history box when selecting our majors. 

I also think that the stigma surrounding humanities majors encapsulates students who are undeclared. Being undeclared is completely reasonable — maybe even more reasonable than deciding at the tender age of 18 that you want to spend thousands of dollars and eight more years to graduate from another school. 

Some argue that harder disciplines, by nature of their difficulty, are worth higher merit. I don’t have three-hour labs or impossible midterms, but I do have lengthy papers and seemingly incomprehensible readings. I’d suggest trying Chaucer out for size before disparaging English majors, or interminable tech weeks before belittling theatre majors. All majors are equally difficult in their own ways, and the level of difficulty does not define prestige.

What is most detrimental about dismissing a major is that it deters individuals from pursuing what they are most passionate about. I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t need or want to take the class, but I thought that taking it would somehow magically get me to like science and, therefore, help me secure my place in the workforce.

I’m here to tell all of my humanities majors and undeclared peers that there isn’t a point in coupling your dreams with someone else’s expectations. You aren’t wasting your time if you’re doing what you love. 

Written by: Isabella Chuecos — ifchuecos@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie


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