Friday, September 25, 2009

Decline of the English Department.

The reason people are majoring in business rather than English these days is not because anyone has failed to champion literature.

There are two reasons: 1) Most students have very poor reading and writing skills, and 2) there is no money in English.

As for the first, it's pretty evident from the posts here at RYS. These kids don't read books. They don't write sentences and paragraphs. The odd one that can do these things will find English classes to be pretty easy, overall (will sparkle and stand out from the drones with minimal effort) and so may end up a major as a path of least resistance. But most of these kids hate English because it's hard and boring, which is in turn because they don't do it very well. I hated gym class for the same reason.

As for the second: No money. Zero. There is money in business -- or that's what people continue to believe. You can point to that degree and at least say it's designed to get the student a job when she graduates with no further schooling needed. An English degree prepares you for a job as what, a teacher? House painters make more, and the customer pays for the paint.

I used to be a grad student in English and am now a lawyer. When I hear about the money that you folks are making, even the ones with the dream TT jobs, I shake my head in disbelief. And I'm not a well-paid lawyer at all. How many years of school are we talking about for you folks? They teach about opportunity cost in the business department.

No one has failed to champion books. Students are making very rational decisions. They can read books on their own if they want to -- though they usually don't.