We’ve all heard it before: English and Art Students better get used to asking people whether or not they want fries with their combo. For us non-Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics majors, the question is usually asked by someone resembling the ponytailed guy in the Harvard bar from “Good Will Hunting.”
Conversely, how often have you heard non-STEM and non-business majors saying their counterparts better prepare themselves for a life of well-compensated drudgery. The jokes don’t fall on deaf ears. To the average STEM or business student, those jokes probably seem to originate from some unscrubbed, van-dwelling, future beat poet.
Interestingly, both forms of ribbing stem from a common source. Temple’s status as a behemoth university recognized for excellence in a variety of fields lends to a stratified student body, with many outlier groups unaware of what the others are up to.
As a journalism major, I can attest to the fact that I often lose sleep worrying whether I’ll end up curating listicles of “Top 5 Hannah Montana GIFS That Describe My Existential Dread” for a clickbait website with my journalism degree framed over my shoulder.
Many business students do feel pressure to work their way into a high-paying field, possibly sacrificing a passion of theirs in place of a baby lamb. I’m not suggesting all business students are members of the Illuminati or some other nefarious international society, but the fact that Fox School of Business and Management students are required to make a blood oath every semester is suspicious.
In all seriousness, though, the stereotype that the average businessman or woman, including all the multitudes of professions that fall under that gray umbrella, is an intelligent drone, pushing pencils and the corporate initiative, is oddly widespread and considered often as fact or an inevitable reality. The idea that the run-of-the-mill liberal arts, communications or art students will be pulling in, at most, a hefty $25,000 salary at 45 years old, too busy with finger painting or drum circles to work, is just as prevalent.
Larry Mangan, an actuarial science student in Fox, said he chose his major not to sate outside pressures but because of a love of what it involves and the career options it presents.
“I basically could have done whatever I wanted but I love math enough that I wanted a job where I could do it everyday,” Mangan said. “I didn’t feel like being a mathematician locked up in a classroom but I just wanted a job where I was paid to do math for a few hours. Different people are wired for different things.”
With the economy slowly inching away from recession-level unemployment, and college debt levels and tuition unlikely to change any time soon, these intra-school and inter-school jokes and teases sprout from a similar place: deep fear for the future. Tales of barista employment and mountains of college debt give me, and many others, a pit in our stomachs the size of a neon softball.
Alex Bruce is a freshman graphic design student. He said while his family supported his decision to study art because his mother is an artist, he said he did feel some level of outside disapproval with his choice.
“Moreso with people I don’t know as well, I’ll mention [my major] and they’re like ‘Oh good luck with that, you’re in for a s—-y future’ just guaranteed because you’re an artist and the whole ‘starving artist’ stereotype is what people think of when you say ‘I’m gonna major in art,’” Bruce said. “People don’t really understand where the job opportunities are there so the assumption is you’re gonna paint pictures and sell them on the street and that’s your professional thing, like you pay $200,000 and then say ‘$40. Please, I need to buy milk.’”
Choosing your major while this monkey is hanging on your back, cradling your neck, is difficult and involves many tiers of questions and considerations. What kind of job can I get upon graduation? Is this major marketable? Is this an actual monkey or a cliché metaphor? Is this a dying or blossoming career to pursue?
We’re all worried that the jokes the opposite are making are based in fact. We have invested, or will soon invest, thousands and thousands of dollars and hours, only to hear someone who has a quarter of a clue as to what your major entails dismiss your choice with a wave of their hand and a wisecrack.
Are they right?
This is a stupidly serious column on a pretty innocuous issue that’s gone on for decades, but all the same, it’s time we appreciate the diversity present on our Main Campus and subvert the taken-for-granted notions we hold about certain majors.
As quaint an image it may seem, art students do not actually forage for berries barefoot on Beury Beach. And while we’re on the subject, Fox and STEM majors only inadvertently pay homage to goat-headed pagan gods.
These types of juxtapositions of things that work in tandem in the real world is a bit confusing. Our talents and interests and goals exist on a gradient, not a two-sided scale that must be kept in balance. What someone decides to study and pursue intellectually should be celebrated and discussed, not torn down. I’m all for red-faced, blustering hate of people even remotely different from me, but come on.
There’s plenty of time to nurture resentment for our peers during our careers, but for now, we should take the time to appreciate our differences. Now, I think these jokes should continue by all means and I think that censorship among friends is always a dead end to dialogue, but it’s important to find where these sentiments grow out of. Every time you blubber about others’ majors or courses of studies, you’re pulling back the curtain of your own insecurities.
Colton Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.