Why Majors Give College Its Identity

College students, who make up a fraction of the high school graduate population (since, remember, college is not for everyone), may be viewed as an “elite” group that want to further their studies in a particular field, which would correspond to the “major.”  And of course, the major, or area of specialization, is just that:  the knowledge of one student’s major will probably be of little relevance to another’s plans.

I currently attend the Community College of Philadelphia, hoping to transfer to a university in a few years.  I am registering to be a biology major, and shall do the same at the university to follow.

You can now see the material covered in a biology major would have little relevance to an art major, a political science major, a sociology major, etc.  What is taught in one major would be quite irrelevant to someone seeking a career in another.  You would hardly use information beyond your major in the career you would expect to pursue.  For example, I was recently browsing through some geology texts in Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, which allows you to preview select books.  While I could definitely understand the material and do the work of such a major, geology is not a profession I would like, and the subject doesn’t hold my interest as much as biology anyway.  So it would be unnecessary to “dabble” in that field (or any field beyond your major) in that amount of depth.  (At least it was good I made such a judgment.)

Of course, you do have the “general education” courses, that can expose you to fields beyond your major, but in less depth than the corresponding major lineup.  The emphasis here, however, is breadth, exposure to a number of different kinds of courses.  This presents a trade-off; you usually can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Of course, if you double major (which many colleges offer), you can dabble in a second area, but it seldom has an advantage over the standard single-major approach.  Minors are a common practice, and while the courses are equivalent to that of a major, the difference is that of quantity, that is, fewer courses.  But since employers tend to pay little regard for minors, it is often a good way to prepare for a hobby or side pursuit.

Moreover, with the Internet now, there are scores of things you can dabble in, but of course, you won’t have the instructive support of a professor.  The Web is useful when you need something for a “quick-reference,” but for an in-depth analysis of a subject, schooling may be more appropriate.  But if you’re already done college, your trajectory in life is probably already set (especially concerning your career), and it would not be worth getting another degree just to merely learn about something.  God has guided you in the direction he wants, and you should be content with what you already have (Phil. 4:11, 12).

No wonder Solomon’s quote in Ecclesiastes 12:12 says excessive study “wearies the body.”  You should be able to draw the line when it’s time.  We were meant to work, indeed (typically) longer than our studies.  Information is always increasing (especially in this very century we live in now), but our personal knowledge capacities are the same.  And that’s a good reason to have specialization.  Polymaths and other generalists are basically a thing of the past, as there was less information out there then.

US President Barack Obama planned to make community college free, rendering half of a four-year (bachelor’s) degree, or an entire associate degree for direct entry into the work force, affordable.  Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who is more of a socialist, patterns much of his politics after the Nordic lands, and hopefully (within the domain of state universities) plans to make bachelor’s degrees free.  These policies are a little too good to be true, since again, college is an elite group.

Knowledge may be power, but only enough in certain fields.  The “bliss” of ignorance of other fields certainly holds true as well, and indeed acts as a balance.

Don’t be too smart for your own good!


2 thoughts on “Why Majors Give College Its Identity

  1. Great post Frank! I often wonder if they do make some form of college free, would they refund the money paid in the past for these degrees? Probably not, but we can dream! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! No more student debt! Imagine that, yesterday’s alumni raising today’s kids with silver spoons. LOL.

      Probably only in a “parallel universe,” if they were to exist.


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