When I was in the tenth grade, I failed one Chemistry term exam. Truth is, I was never good at Chemistry, mostly because the subject never appealed to me and also because of the teacher we had back then. He was everything a good teacher shouldn’t be, to say the least. None of us liked him and he returned the favor with mutual hatred, especially towards me.
Now, I had given him the perfect opportunity to lash at me and I was prepared for it. He announced my marks (very loudly) in class and added, “Tell your father to stop providing you with an education.” In spite of all my preparations, I was rendered speechless. I felt extremely humiliated and anger drove me to tears. He however didn’t bother to battle an eyelid.
A week later, another Chemistry class. His eyes scanned the class, looking for a suitable prey, and found me. He asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer, and then he snidely added,
“What are you going to take up for your +2?”
“Humanities,” I said.
“Good, don’t take up science, because if you study science, you will FAIL.”
He especially emphasized on the word.
At that moment, I wanted to hit him hard on the head, and tell him that HE was the reason I hated Chemistry, how HE failed miserably at being a teacher, and so on. How I always wanted to study the liberal arts: simply because it was my passion, not because I failed one chemistry test and didn’t have the ‘potential’ to study science!
Tell people you’re pursuing a major in Philosophy or History or any other subject in the liberal arts and you’ll be openly frowned upon, especially in a country like India, where only a degree in Engineering is looked upon with sparkly eyed admiration.
People look down on the liberal arts because they think it’s an ‘easy’ major; that because there isn’t one single answer to each question, students can just make up stuff and get a degree.
“Liberal Arts and Philosophy majors are for the kids who could not cut it. They were unable to perform the intellectual needs of other majors…so they opted out for an easier one.”
Why this mindset? This is mostly because of job placements after college. With an engineering or medical degree, there are jobs all over looking for qualified applicants, and the market continues to rise as the healthcare industry and commercial building industries are growing. With degrees in the liberal arts, career options are ‘restricted’. This is true, but to only an extent. With degrees in humanities and the liberal arts, you could get a variety of jobs: artists, authors, poets, teachers/professors, researchers, journalists, and SO much more. True, you won’t make as much money as a doctor does, but at least you’ll be doing what you love. THAT’S admirable. How many people do you see majoring in Engineering because they want to be engineers? In my experience, very few. All they care about is money and a leisure-ridden life. And I’m not blaming them for it; but to ridicule/chide someone as inferior/stupid just because they don’t WANT to study science is just despicable.
I did stick to my word and I took up History as my major; not just to prove my point, but to show everyone that I can excel in my field and be happy with my career at the end of the day, even if I don’t drown in cash. That’s okay with me and with everyone who dares to live their passion. I don’t feel the need to berate the science majors or to prove that humanities majors are superior. Society needs both the thinker and the builder. However, I think that the liberal arts still need a little more recognition and funding in the society to completely get rid of the obtuse stereotypes.