Subject Shaming: Why You Should Always Be Proud of What You Study

When I was a junior in high school, I distinctly remember one particular day in English class when we went around the classroom announcing what we wanted to be when we 'grew up.' But unlike the days of elementary school when our peers proudly stated that they wanted to be an astronaut or a chef, an artist or a policewoman, what I heard that day was a resounding 'doctor' or 'scientist' from nearly every person in the room.

Until it was my turn. 'I want to be a teacher,' I said, almost automatically. My answer was followed by a long silence, and an approving nod from my English teacher. I knew what they were all thinking, because so many people had said it to me before: how are you going to make any money being a teacher?

Fast forward two years and here I am at the University of Edinburgh, studying Sociology. Much like my experience with following the education career path, my peers (especially those back home) respond to my major with significant skepticism. 
So, what are you going to do with that degree? 

The first question I always get when someone asks me about my major is: What even is sociology? 

Okay, valid question. I mean, I didn't even know too much about the subject before accepting my place at University (guilty). Sociology is, at its core, 'the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society.' But what I like to tell people about the subject is that I study anything from gender relations to media power. This semester, I even explored the social-psychology of religious cults.  

Second question: What are you going to do with a degree like that? 

Okay, slightly valid question- a little bit condescending, but I'll answer it anyway. Sociology actually provides a wide range of job options, that includes jobs in public and human relations, education, and journalism, to name just a few. And me? I'm looking to go into journalism, of course. 

Third question: Is it nice to be doing such an easy degree? 

Excuse me?  

While I fully understand that it's a competitive world out there, it's competitive for every single one of us. In fact, less than half of American Medical School applicants will be accepted into their program- whether it's a 'good' school or not. That being said, no single degree is a golden ticket to success. We all have reason to be weary of our prospects in terms of jobs and further education. 

But why is it that liberal arts degrees (subjects pertaining to humanities and social sciences) are always the target of intellectual shame? While I do value the work of doctors who deliver babies like it's nobody's business (shoutout to my favorite fictional OBGYN, Mindy Lahiri), and the scientists who are working to cure cancer, to me, the historians, anthropologists, and linguists of the world are unsung heroes who deserve a little more credit for what they contribute to society. 

In high school, I never took AP Biology or AP Chemistry or AP anything science related. It's not because I couldn't handle it, but it's because I genuinely wasn't interested in those subjects. And I saw far too many of my peers taking these high-level classes not because of a genuine desire to study the Krebs cycle, but because of the pressure they felt from their classmates, parents, and teachers regarding my high school's obsession with success- especially in math and science. 

Don't get me wrong- I love the push to get more girls involved in math and science. But just because I don't particularly enjoy those subjects, doesn't make me any less intellectually capable. 

There is as much value in being able to write a comprehensive analysis of the social construction of bodies relating to racial inequalities as there is in being able to conduct an experiment regarding anaerobic respiration. In fact, a liberal arts education provides skills that one would find helpful whether aspiring to be an art historian or a lab researcher: critical thinking, analytical writing, and logical evaluation. 

So here's to studying what you want to study- regardless of salary, employability rates, and your peer's and parent's two cents. We may not always get the respect we deserve, but for now we'll just have to deal with the often well-intentioned, and sometimes-condescending questions.

Whatever the hell I want.   

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