The editor's soapbox: Breadth of study should be valued

    When I showed up, bright-eyed and cocky, to the Eleanor Roosevelt College orientation a couple of summers ago, the advisers that spoke to my fellow incoming freshmen and me told us not to worry if we were, at that point, unsure of our major. They said that students change their majors often, and that being undeclared or generally confused was no big deal.

    I smugly ignored them. I had known my major — literature/writing — since applying to UCSD, and I was sure nothing was going to dissuade me from that.

    Well, in the two years since I was admitted to UCSD under that major, I’ve gone through a hell of a lot of dissuasion.

    Some of the plans of study I’ve seriously considered (that is, pondered for longer than 24 hours): a double major of literature/writing and music; a double major of literature/writing and math; an individual major titled, tentatively, the arts in society; an individual major titled, tentatively, news media studies; a double major of political science and sociology; and urban studies and planning. All these plans fizzled, by the way, and I’m right back where I started: with literature/writing.

    A lot of this waffling has mirrored my own pervasive uncertainty about what I want to “”do with my life.””

    As is evident by the above list of potential majors, I’m torn between indulging my artsy nature and pursuing more “”real-world”” interests.

    On the one hand, I love writing and composing and studying the works of other creative people. On the other hand, I worry that devoting my life to art is a waste, and think that I should be attacking corrupt politicians or negotiating peace treaties or developing new theories about what makes people do those wacky things they do.

    This waffling has certainly also wound up in my noncommittal nature, and in my dissatisfaction with any major and my general education requirements. I feel that all the majors I’ve considered, while containing some kernel of interesting material, are overboard and mostly comprised of classes I’d rather not take. On the other hand, I have far too many interests to study all of them in four years.

    What happened to the old liberal arts major? Can’t I major in undeclared?

    I mean, I’m spending four grand of my money each year (not my parents’ money, mind you, my money) at UCSD — shouldn’t I be able to study whatever the heck I want?

    OK, I know that’s unreasonable. I’m supposed to follow a specific course of study so that when I get a sheepskin that says “”Bachelor of Arts in Literature/Writing,”” it means, “”Hey, this chick can kinda write good. And stuff.”” That is, of course, ensured because I have presumably taken a lot of literature classes that have exposed me to the greats after whom I should model my writing, as well as a lot of writing workshops where I’ve had my work dissected and bettered.

    Were I to get a degree that said “”Bachelor of Arts in Whatever Struck Her Fancy While Making Her Schedule,”” presumably I wouldn’t be attractive to employers because I wouldn’t have any marketable skills.

    Guess what: literature/writing doesn’t give you all that many marketable skills.

    A recent search on Monster.com showed me that with my forthcoming degree, I am at least preliminarily qualified for a career in technical writing for a company that sells VCRs, copyediting for a celebrity hairstyles magazine and being a secretary to an executive.

    Where are those “”Fortune 500 company seeks tortured poet and visionary crafter of prose”” job listings?

    I think I’d be a lot more marketable if I had dabbled in college, taking a little biology, a little sociology, a little literature, a little poli sci, etc. After all, in the careers I’m considering (journalism, teaching, translation and interpretation), it’s useful to have a smattering of skills.

    Sure, that’s the aim of general education, but — and I know I’m not alone in this — I hate restrictions. I hate being told that I have to pick from a list. I’ve already petitioned one GE substitution, and I’ll probably do it again.

    Here’s my proposition to the Academic Senate: Let me be an experiment. Let me take whatever classes I want for the next two years, without regard to fulfilling requirements. Write whatever you want on my degree (perhaps “”Dissatisfied Whining”” would accurately represent the skill I’ve best developed here).

    Then call me five or 10 years after graduation and see where I am in life. If I’m successful — and by that I mean working a job I enjoy — then perhaps other students can be allowed to follow my lead and reject restrictions in favor of unadulterated pursuit of learning.

    If only that’s what UCSD was really committed to. Then I might not feel that my four grand every year could have been better spent.

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