Ten reasons why your major sucks

Taylor Kessinger

Now that I have your attention: Major elitism is stupid.

As college students, it’s all too easy for us to define ourselves by what we choose to study. It makes sense: The question of “”What’s your major?”” is usually one of the first we ask when we meet new people, and it shapes the way we view our fellow students.

But almost all of us take this label far too seriously, and in our own ways, we contribute to the formation of a phony “”major hierarchy.””

Let’s be frank about one thing: Some majors are just harder than others. But some of you (engineers are notorious for this, as are my fellow “”hard science”” majors) look down your noses at others for choosing a “”lesser”” major.

If you’re not any of these people, you might be one of the few who gasps in shock when you hear I study physics. Like it or not, you’re not helping the problem. Looking “”up”” at other majors invites false humility, and what is that but arrogance?

Some contribute to this nonsense in other ways, such as by participating in petty, inter-major competitions.

English and psychology senior Tom Wykes happily informed me of the rivalry between philosophy and English. He stated that philosophy “”is a bunch of wispy, ephemeral garbage,”” whereas English is about “”hard textual analysis.”” As a philosophy major, I’ll happily counter that most of this “”textual analysis”” is pseudo-intellectual dreck, but what can you do?

Watch a linguistics major foam at the mouth when you falsely state that math or art are languages, as though you’ve infringed on their sacred holy ground. See a chemistry major get defensive when you utter the (true, but completely useless) statement that chemistry is applied physics: after all, you’ve offended and abased the “”central science.””

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but you get my point. We’re way too serious about our majors. Examine, say, the tension between digital art and studio art majors, or between molecular and cellular biology and ecology and evolutionary biology. To a sane person, it’s completely absurd. So why do we persist?

Some of us, like one optical sciences and engineering sophomore who was featured in the Wildcat’s Mailbag, critique the “”usefulness”” of other majors – I’ve done it myself a few times.

But think for a second. Is anthropology a “”useful”” major? Ask Dr. Stephen Lansing, a UA professor whose work in ecological anthropology helped save Balinese agriculture. Is French? History? Anything else that isn’t inherently vocation-related? Where do you draw the line?

Sure, our society needs science and engineering – but at the end of the day, art and culture are essential, too. (Hell, so are lawyers.) People opt to study these things for a reason, and many of them do so in a way you won’t be able to just by reading books.

And some pull the worst cop-out of all, using the difficulty of their major as a justification to piss and moan about others. Are you mad because the communications majors upstairs are having a party on a Thursday night while you’re cramming for an exam? Tough luck. No one forced you into your major – you can always take an easier route. If you choose to work hard, at least be dignified about it. Suck it up.

Besides which, someone will always have it harder than you. Imagine being a women’s and gender studies major with a penis, or an economics major with anything even remotely resembling a conscience, or any major that requires organic chemistry and you’ll have a good idea of how bad it can really get.

I love swapping jokes about engineers, astronomers, and math majors with fellow physics nerds, and it’s all in good fun. But your chosen area of study is not a reason to seriously trump your horn. Get a couple of Ph.Ds under your belt and write some papers. Then we’ll talk.

And if you have to put up with any of these people, take a lesson from Zen Buddhism: Sometimes a slap in the face is the best possible response.

Taylor Kessinger is a sophomore majoring in physics, math and philosophy. Complaints that he didn’t mention your major can be directed to letters@wildcat.arizona.edu