The Young and Disenchanted

“Hate on me, hater” – Liberal Arts vs. Engineering Majors

Posted on: 21 January, 2009

Before I came to college, I had a game plan for the next 12 years of my life: I would move to New York, major in Economics, become the hottest and wealthiest stockbroker/investment banker/scam artist under the age of 30, retire with a billi in the bank to do pretty much whatever the fuck I wanted. It was all perfect until I stumbled across the fly in the ointment: I can’t add. And I hate maths with an unbridled passion. And all my bloody Econ professors wanted to do was make me work through abstract-ass formulae and bitch about how because they failed as investment bankers, all of their students would too, and inevitably wind up being equally disgruntled teaching bored undergrads with no tenure in sight (yes, I’m talking to you Professor Arluck). Long story short, I discovered that what I preferred doing was talking about literature (one of my friends told me while we were studying for a exam that she’d never seen anyone get so excited about Crime and Punishment, a pretty depressing ass book), and I preferred to read rather than struggle through problem sets. So now, I’m a hippy happy English major, and I love it.

 What I don’t love so much is the fact that my friends who are either engineers or Econ majors (i.e. all except two) make fun of me for deciding to study literature. Gems I’ve heard from them include:

 “I can do everything you can do better, but you can’t do anything I can – like calibrate the effectiveness of a motorised input/output widget prototype to within 0.0003 degrees of accuracy from a spaceship orbiting Neptune.”

(I usually reply to that, “I’m pretty certain nothing you said was in English anyway, so you just disproved your own point by opening your mouth”)

 “What kind of a job do you expect to get with that exactly? I’m guessing nothing that actually pays.”

(I’ve given up trying to dignify that with a response)

 “Um, look down at your hand. What colour is your skin again?”

(I usually respond to that with a backhand slap with said hand)

 What really pains me about these fucking retards my dear friends expressing such sentiments about what I have chosen to study is that I’m not derisive of the fact they are engineers, no matter how earth-shatteringly boring I know everything that they study is.

 Also, this may seem outdated and idealistic, but I believe that you should study what you love at college. You know, the kind of shit that makes you actually want to go to class at 9am in your pyjamas (although, to be fair, the only thing that makes me want to do this is the guarantee of free food). Unless you have your mind set on a particular career path that requires highly specific skills, it really doesn’t matter what you study. In the field I want to go into – publishing – experience, enthusiasm and contacts are far more useful to employers than the ability to programme a T-81 calculator.

 No, I can’t do the calibrating-whatchamacallit, but I know that I can write a more insightful paper than you can without even trying, in less time, and actually care about it. I may be the only person that means something to, but I don’t give a shit. Ain’t nobody care about what you do in the basement of the engineering building at 10pm anyway except for your webcam friend. Yes, I know about that Tina from Texas. Don’t deny it.

 And yes, English majors can find well-paying jobs. Not all of us want to go into finance – broadcasters, actors, journalists and professors all make good money while doing what they love. I’d take a tenth of the money a hedge fund manager makes for twenty times the peace of mind and a significantly smaller risk of getting caught running a $50 billion scam.

Side note: why the fuck do engineers go to engineering school and torture themselves with painfully dull classes if they want to be bankers to begin with? Being able to build a robot does not give you any kind of advantage on Wall Street, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise.

 Furthermore, engineers aren’t the only ones who contribute something worthwhile to society. I’ve had this fight with a couple of friends who laughingly tell me that what I want to do with my life won’t change anything in people’s lives. If that is so, why are authors like Tolstoy, Woolf and Shakespeare still admired today? Yes, writers don’t build computers or highways, but they create works that make people think in new ways, that build bridges between different cultures so that a 21st century African girl like me can empathise with the pain of a 19th century Russian noblewoman torn between duty to family and her desire for happiness (Anna Karenina, one of my favourite novels of all time). And in a world filled with hatred and a distinct lack of understanding of what makes us similar and what we share as human beings, I can’t think of anything more beautiful. *cue “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson*

 I’m not saying that all English or liberal arts majors are noble people destined to be writers or teachers who “change the world.” Nor am I saying that engineers are all money-grubbing egotistical robotic beings. I actually only have one friend that is a fellow English major – most of the others I’ve met are obnoxious pseudo-intellectuals who dress in an affected British professorial manner that gets on my tits. I am saying this though: both engineers and liberal arts majors contribute in different but equal ways to the betterment of society, and I’m going to need all of my engineers out there to accept that and move on. No pomposity in the ’09, it’s not what’s hot on the streets.

 Speak on it.

 P.S. Title’s courtesy of Jilly from Philly – although I don’t love her 3rd album as much as the first two, “Hate on Me” is a hot track. 

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2 Responses to "“Hate on me, hater” – Liberal Arts vs. Engineering Majors"

All I am hearing is an angry pseudo-intellectual. Also, as far as the claim that you could “write a better paper than an engineering major without even trying” – how do you intend to quantify that statement? Surely as a liberal arts major you have learned about the importance of critical thinking and what logical fallacies are?

lol i guess i was an angry pseudo-intellectual a year ago. my comparison was with my engineer friends/acquaintances, at whom this post was half-jokingly aimed. if you took offence… my apologies, but my sentiments regarding this issue are actually best summed up by the last paragraphs. the rest is blustery rhetoric.

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