The Daily Beast, in a moment of typically self-congratulatory snark, has issued a list of 13 college majors that should be avoided as "useless", complete with statistical backing. The winners:
- Fine Arts
- Drama and Theater Arts
- Film, Video, and Photographic Arts
- Commercial Art and Graphic Design
- Philosophy and Religious Studies
- English Literature and Language
- Anthropology and Archeology
- Hospitality Management
- Political Science and Government
Yes, good heavens, why would anyone study history or religion when they could be earning a degree in peace studies or sustainability?
Look, some of these critiques are fair. Getting a journalism degree is about the worst preparation possible to be a working journalist (ditto education degrees for teachers, which manage to avoid the list because, despite all their other failings, they do at least usually translate into a job). Likewise, in many cases a degree in the arts has less cash value than actually working in the arts for the same amount of time would.
When it comes to the liberal arts, however, I think the folks at the Daily Beast get a little ahead of themselves. No, English lit, political science, and philosophy aren't the right courses of study for people who are looking to spend four years in college, punch a ticket, and instantly be as employable as possible (those people should probably look at business degrees).
But the traditional conception of a liberal arts education has been to prepare individuals for their professional lives by giving them a holistic understanding of the world they inhabit, not developing a narrow, industry-specific skill set. Now, admittedly, that line of reasoning is not going to sway a lot of potential employers, which is why liberal arts students owe themselves the honesty of at least acknowledging that a professional degree is often going to be a necessary addition to their bachelor's. But "useless"? Let's save that designation for majors like Chicano studies and critical theory.