Editor’s Note: Dawson Reynier is a Bulletin photographer.
While trying to prove to family and friends that I would be financially sound post-graduation, I Googled a lot of listicles, all cleverly titled, “In Defense of the English Major.”
Listen, I love bullet points just as much as the next lady, but even I have to admit — telling your dad you’re spending hundreds of thousands of his dollars on a college degree so you can “learn to read” is not going to instill much confidence.
If you are considering or currently studying English, you already know that the major will help refine your writing skills. You’ve also probably heard the flack; fun jokes about how you’ll be a barista forever, questions from concerned aunts and uncles asking, “So, do you want to teach?” Or just a frank, “Oh. So like, what do you want to do with that?”
The question remains, “why English?”
The friends I’ve made since arriving at Gonzaga study everything from communications to biology to nursing. But many of the people I’ve met in the English major are connected through similar sentiments: a passion for their choice of study and a commrodary that can only be formed in the frontline of the barrage of English major jokes.
Few had the experience of switching majors; usually changing their sophomore year, if at all.
Before entering college, I figured I would follow the pre-med track — it was what my parents did and since I did well in (most) science and math classes in high school, it felt like the obvious route.
There is a short hand for people seeking doctorates or law degrees: their majors read as smart and so do they.
I liked the shorthand — but there comes a time when one has to consider, and I mean really consider, what they want from the future?
I didn’t want to be stuck in a loveless career. I knew I had passions.
“I’ve loved [English] ever since I can remember.” said junior Haley Wilson. “It was always the subject I thrived in at school; it allowed me to investigate worlds I never knew existed and simultaneously create my own. I entered Gonzaga as a business major but thankfully I have enough space in my schedule to have duel degrees.”
It’s hard to ignore one’s love for the written word, eventually you have to acknowledge that it is a valid field of study.
Many of those studying English pair it with other passions.
“[I want] to focus on writing while coupling that with my history major,” said senior Dawson Reynier, who is minoring in English. “I chose it because writing is one of the most beneficial skills one could possess.”
Reynier specifically loves creative and intellectual writing — vehicles with which he can dive more deeply into topics. He used his degrees to get into a master’s program so he can teach high school social studies.
When asked what other jobs would be perfect for English majors or minors, he replied, “Any jobs. If you can write, you can get hired.”
However, studying English isn’t necessarily about jobs. Again, that’s not something your parents probably want to hear, but it’s true. A lot of benefits of studying English come from being a part of a community. Attending English classes, clubs and events means finding people who share your passions, who expose you to new pools of thought and writing styles. People you can bounce ideas off of.
“Studying English exposed me to a diverse learning environment; I’ve tried video and audio learning, I now know how to write essays and function in group projects, create portfolios and cover letters and resumes. Some majors don’t teach you that, but I was taught how to be a well-rounded learner,” said senior Maggie Helde, who is an English major.
She’s right — the skills that English majors are taught help them be adaptive. Critical thinking alone opens up a myriad of doors; tech designers, managers, story board writers, researchers, sales representatives and many more all depend on the one ability.
English is a constantly evolving field. There will never stop being new interpretations of texts — we can look at the Canon through a feminist lens, kill the author of office memos or declare the priorities of Generation Z by dissecting the grammar in their Tweets. Scientific inquiry asks for the same process of examination that English does; make observations, ask questions, create a hypothesis, experiment and draw conclusions and when that’s finally said and done, make a new observation and repeat the process.
English majors go on to be the CEOs of Starbucks, the script writers for your favorite TV shows and the critical thinkers of the work force. Now more than ever, the world needs people who don’t just write, but write well. Name one business that doesn’t rely on a type of writing; whether its social media management, work emails or a mission statement for their website. Jobs need critical thinkers — people who can express the humanity behind data. Hell, they need someone just to take data and make it readable.
The real reason people choose to be English majors isn’t so they can learn how to write, it’s so that they can learn to be better writers. People who take on English degrees already have a passion or ambition, they’re just seeking a little refinement. English degrees, just like many others, are proof that after four years you’ve learned how to problem solve and ask questions. English degrees mean you’ve studied the history, understand even the driest of philosophers, know the technical jargon and can write a 40-page research paper in your sleep.
So if you’re considering the degree, halfway through or just trying to prove to relatives that bankruptcy isn’t the next step after university, remember: every field needs English majors.
Grace Nakahara is an A&E editor. Folllow her on Twitter: @A_E_is_News.