The written word is as uplifting as it is awesome. It’s a major part of my life. I love my Kindle. The heaps of books growing organically throughout the house fill me with contentment. I read constantly. However, I don’t think that makes me special. Most smart people read a lot and many idiots do too.
I do more than read, I write a goddamn blog. People apparently read it. My writing hasn’t caused anyone to have seizures. It must be at least tolerable. You can call me an asshole but you can’t call me illiterate.
Like most adults, I know that the written word is merely a means to an end. We understand the soul is not inherently enhanced by using letters. At best, literature is flavor and catalyst and at worst it’s a mental escape capsule but it’s never the whole enchilada. The mundane concerns of Earthbound existence really are the meat of our brief lives. We suck it up and get to it. We grapple in the dirt with reality.
Literacy is a stepping stone, nothing more. Occasionally someone misses the point and earnestly calls to us; “join me in unreality”.
“Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all—being a human being.”
“The English major at her best isn’t used by language; she uses it. She bends it, inflects it with irony, and lets hyperbole bloom like a firework flower when the time’s right. She knows that language isn’t there merely to represent the world but to interpret it. Language lets her say how she feels.”
“To me an English major is someone who has decided, against all kinds of pious, prudent advice and all kinds of fears and resistances, to major, quite simply, in becoming a person.”
So there you have it. Drop out of the workforce and take on massive student loans and you’ll eventually become a human being who can say how you feel. Why does this remind me of teaching a toddler to “use your words”?
It’s an excellent essay. You should read the whole thing. Let all 1853 words about the super cool awesomeness that is formal study of English wash over you like a Diet Sprite spilled on your shoe. Let the author drop their thoughts in your cranium like a cat dropping a turd in a box. Let the concepts rain down from on high like drool from the mouth of a gold plated unicorn.
Then shake that shit off and get your ass back to work!
Watch out for pretentious yahoos trying to make you into a human being. First of all there is the implied assumption that the prospective student isn’t yet a self realized individual. Who wants to service an ego so inflated that it considers would be apprentices nothing more than a mass of unformed dingbats? Second, unless you’re an utter moron you already know how to read. Finally, if you take on five digits of debt to learn to “say how you feel” you should emerge with a notepad full of euphemisms for “screwed”.
It takes a long career of navel gazing to pretend literacy is the whole purpose of everything, everywhere, for everyone. Reading is fine but it’s not the point. The point is living. Four years “learning to be a human being” at the foot of a self proclaimed literacy God won’t put you very far down the road to adventure.
Hat tip to Maggies Farm.
As a former English major, I wholeheartedly agree. My liberal arts profs might call me a loon, but I was a literate, emotive, whole human being before ever taking on all my student loans. Now I’m an English teacher who advises kids to pursue a career in engineering.
Your students will surely think of you fondly when they’re making bank instead of whining in a coffee shop.
But to the sort of Fascist Totalitarian Statist that our entire education system is trying to turn out, the word IS the thing, It is, in fact, the whole point of such “education” – to produce an individual who suffers from Intensional Orientation..an individuals who thinks becoming a “person” means being able to describe, using symbols, a “person”, better than anyone else. S I Hawakawa’s “Language in Thought and Action” provides an excellent treatment of the subject, but in brief ,Intensional orientation is acting as if the words or labels are more important than the thing the words stand for. That the Map is more important than the geography it represents. That our English Major so wholehearted believes they can write themselves an identity , rather than realizing they already have one, is entirely according to plan. Its far easier to control people with words than it is to control the world those words represent. This way professor can define the identity of the student – The economist defines GDP so the desired economic result is achieved,, and the press can decide a Half Black, Half Hispanic is White. With these sheep, they never look past the meaning of the words – and the pictures that are produced in their heads, and actually check if it matches what is going on in real life. Reality wins eventually of course, but only once its gotten so bad it can no longer be ignored by putting a prettier word on it because your belly is still rumbling.
My Father was a college Professor (History of Science and Technology) and loved the work, but he was acutely aware that where society was concerned he was a luxury good. He spend a good deal of time and energy trying to inculcate in his students and colleagues the idea that the very least they owed Society in return was to publish their research. And he met with a good deal of resistance.
And there, I think, is the clue. Colleges are institutions for Scholars. Or they should be. Society only really needs a limited number of PhD.s in English Lit.. But the whole of the (self appointed) Intellectual Class rests their claims of superiority on having college degrees. Were they ever to admit that what a BA (or MA) qualifies you to do is study for the next higher degree, a lot of their carefully built up prestige would come crashing down around their pointed little heads.
Or, if one is so inclined towards literary overanalysis, the smart thing is to skip college all together and head right to Starbucks. One’s just going to wind up there anyway, but in this case you’ll have that extra bit of money for cool hipster stuff.
Why not? There’s no shame in working at Starbucks; there is only shame if you spent a couple hundred grand on a degree to do it.
My boost in that direction, derived from marrying my High School English / Humanities teachers daughter !
That’s a hard one to resist. You were doomed from the start! 🙂 I’m guessing your hypothetical future career in experimental chemistry / particle physics / substrate mining / diesel repair suffered mightily. I hope your novel is coming along nicely.
Actually ended up becoming a Mechanical Engineer ha ha. Though no doubt there is a novel lurking in the background.
Most certainly learned proper English, well anywho as proper as can be expected from an Idaho boy….
Oh man, I taught for twenty years in a university English department, and guys like that would make *me* want to flee — even though I could agree with him on some points.
It’s the false modesty, mostly, that gets to me: “You might even call it a high purpose, if you’re disposed to such talk. (I sometimes am.)”
I agree, modesty can’t get much more false than “higher purpose”.