Goodbye Liberal Arts?

Morgan Kielisch

Morgan Kielisch

A few weeks ago, I donated blood for the first time. A woman inspected my veins, took my pulse and blood pressure and made sure I was comfortable before she stuck the needle in my arm. I struck up a conversation with her about her job. When she asked me what my major is, I said media studies with an emphasis in public relations.

Her response was, “Oh I heard that was one of those bullshit degrees.”

My jaw hit the floor. A “bullshit degree?” Really? I had no idea that this was the impression of people outside of the department.

What bothered me about the whole encounter was that that seems to be a common perception of the media studies major, as well as that of most liberal arts majors. When people major in degrees like graphic design, English, music, media studies and philosophy they instantly subject themselves to the dreaded question: “What are you going to do with that degree?” Well, I can tell you what we won’t be doing. We won’t be building bridges or curing cancer. We won’t be solving the world’s energy crisis or designing new motorcycles. However, English majors will be writing the textbooks that inform people how to build and design bridges. Graphic designers will create the brochures that advertise for the new motorcycles. Public relations professionals will be informing the public of how doctors cured cancer. Music majors will conduct orchestras that play for world leaders. Journalists will investigate stories that lead to decisions on how to solve the world’s energy crisis.

With a new round of budget cuts yearly at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, every semester looks bleaker for those of us in the liberal arts field because our departments aren’t booming like engineering, criminal justice and agriculture, and the financial axe is falling harder on us. Faculty and staff are being cut or not being replaced after retirement. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to fill our schedules in order to graduate on time. It is getting to the point that some students start looking at different schools that value liberal arts instead.

Narrowing education to focus on high paying jobs is not wise for students or for our future. Thinking less of someone because of their career choice may deter future students from following their passion in the liberal arts, which is a shame for them, but more importantly, it’s a loss for all of us. Informing the public, writing textbooks, investigating world problems, creating art, playing music and engaging in creative endeavors are the staff of a healthy society. Just saying, if public relations wasn’t used for the blood drive I never would have donated blood and saved three lives that day.

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