Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ideal English Major

Several years ago, I read an insightful tome on the teaching of English and the humanities called Why Read by University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson.  The book posed an interesting question for students in his literature survey classes - "What do you dislike about school, and what flaws in your intellect and character does this reveal in you?" With that provocative challenge to a student's disdain for academic work, Edmundson offers commentary on why we study.

This week Edmundson offers some valuable insight in The Chronicle on the pursuit of an English degree, even in a world where everyone from parents to college advisors to politicians urge students to pursue career and income-producing majors such as accounting and engineering.  In his words:

Soon college students all over America will be trundling to their advisers' offices to choose a major. In this moment of financial insecurity, students are naturally drawn to economics, business, and the hard sciences. But students ought to resist the temptation of those purportedly money-ensuring options and even of history and philosophy, marvelous though they may be. All students—and I mean all—ought to think seriously about majoring in English. Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all—being a human being.

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