A quick scan of the Yahoo! home page this morning revealed a teaser headline I just couldn’t ignore.
“Don’t Let Your Kids Study These Majors” it warned, accompanied by a picture of a despondent teenager. I guess we’re to believe she made the grave mistake of picking the wrong major, thus rendering the rest of her life a futile attempt at finding gainful employment, much less any kid of financial security. I couldn’t resist. I had to see which majors in college where so worthless that they could ruin your life before it had even begun.
As the page loaded, the possibilities raced through my mind. Sanskrit? Surely a 5,000 year old dead language would make the list (thank you PCU). Or maybe Folklore and Mythology? I once read somewhere you can get a degree in Bowling Management, although I have no idea why spraying fungicide inside rented shoes requires a college degree.
But no, this was a serious article, aimed at real and concerned parents. So it didn’t surprise me to see Architecture listed as the #1 worst major to allow your child to study. I’m sure second place was a close race between Fine Arts and Philosophy/Religious Studies, but the painters beat out the thinkers for #2. Fourth place was Anthropology/Archeology and rounding out the top five was Film, Video and Photographic Arts.
Interesting. Three out of the five involved some form of creativity/artistic talent. This struck a nerve with me, not just because my profession also requires the same (or that I REALLY wanted to be an architect growing up and feel, much like George Castanza, that architecture is the pinnacle of professions). No, this really got under my skin because I had this exact conversation with my father as he was dropping me off for college. It went something like this:
Dad: “Are you sure you really want to go into this?”
Me: “Yes, I love doing it and think I’d be really good at it.”
Dad: “You know you’ll never make much money.”
Me: “Money isn’t everything.”
Dad: “Don’t kid yourself.”
I’m not sure which parenting book he read that in, but it has understandably stuck with me throughout my life. Now I’ll admit as a grown man with children and a mortgage, staring down the barrel of two prom dresses, two college educations and two weddings, I’m a little more sympathetic to his point of view. But up to that point in my life, my parents had always told me I could be anything I wanted. Evidently, I missed the asterisk.
To make matters even worse, the article also suggested five majors you should steer your children towards:
2) Elementary Education (because everyone knows teachers are rollin’ in it??)
4) Business Administration
5) Health Care Administration
Are you kidding me? Are there really kids out there, lying in bed at night dreaming of a life in Health Care Administration? I get that the world needs number crunchers and administrators. But the world also needs artists and film makers and writers and critical thinkers and dreamers.
As of today (and it changes hourly), my children want to be a rock star and panda photographer, respectively. Assuming they can find a college that offers those degrees, I will happily and proudly support them. Because the point of educating yourself isn’t to find the most “in-demand” degree. It’s to find what’s most “in-demand” inside of you. Maybe that’s naive – and maybe they’ll be living with me until they’re thirty – but I’m choosing to teach my kids that money should never be the carrot at the end of their sticks. Find something you love, do it passionately and you’ll earn circles around your peers that chased a profession simply because of a higher starting salary.