The true value of a liberal arts degree

By Mary Menzemer

Several weeks ago, I had a revelation of sorts after a conversation I had with one of the regulars at the bookstore where I work.

He was asking me general questions about my college education, such as what I was majoring in and what I wanted to do with my life. I told him with pride that I was an English and History major and wanted to go into the publishing business.

Keep in mind, this gentleman was the perfect embodiment of the stereotypical stingy, grumpy geezer. I knew perfectly well what his reaction would be as soon as I told him about my deemed “worthless” pursuits.

Naturally, as any “wise guy” would say, he told me there were no jobs and no money in the field, that medical and engineering were much better, et cetera et cetera — it was nothing I hadn’t heard before.

I asked him, “Sir, do you enjoy reading?” After all, he had come into the bookstore for hours every night for the past decade (without purchasing anything, of course) and read countless magazines without a dime spared from his wallet.

He said, “Well yes, of course.”

I then asked, “Who do you think writes all these magazine articles you read about poverty, finance, current events or the inner workings of the human mind?” No answer.

“Writers” I said. “Writers.”

Granted, doctors and mechanical engineers can be writers, but the point is that there is an absolute necessity for those with the talent to portray thoughts and events into words to not only educate the population, but to expand and enlighten their minds.

The art of writing and reading are metaphysical. They surpass our limited knowledge of the world and lend us a kaleidoscope that we can turn all kinds of different directions and see something new each time.

Without these people to write what we read, we would all be the bumbling, brainless fools like those in the movie “Idiocracy,” trying to water our plants with Gatorade.

Exaggerations aside, the value of an English major or any other kind of liberal arts major such as Philosophy or Art History cannot be defined through a dense, worldly perspective. True passion will always exceed any material need.

The revelation I had with my conversation with this man is this: If nobody wrote anything, there would be nothing to read.