Blognik Beat

You're Majoring in What?!

By Samantha Shokin

  • Print
  • Share Share
Samantha Shokin

In an earlier post I touched upon the subject of education, writing that Russian Jews of a certain age often view college as a pressure cooker for liberal propaganda. I find that, in addition to this one-sided view, many Russian Jews both old and young approach the term “liberal arts” with general skepticism, if not disdain. These sentiments are not unwarranted, considering that in the Soviet Union, vocational training was the basis for higher education. However, because of inherent discrepancies between the philosophies underlying vocational and liberal arts educations, major conflicts erupt when Russian parents decide to send their budding young scholars off to college.

As a freshman in college with scores of interests, you’re granted the blessed opportunity to explore. During this period of self-discovery, young undergrads sample from a rich palette of fields while slogging through mandatory general education courses that may or may not be relevant to them. After two years of navigating through an academic hodgepodge, most students are good and ready to set foot on a strict route toward that illustrious college degree. Whether or not that degree is worth what it was some decades ago, is something else worth mulling over.

Many Russian Jewish parents are baffled by humanities majors and their real-world applications. “Soft” majors like English, philosophy, and even psychology often produce more than one raised eyebrow from well-meaning relatives. Usually this bafflement is often accompanied by questions like, “What will you do with a degree in [x]?” What the older generation doesn’t understand is that a college major is not a direct entryway to a specific job. Rather, it demonstrates that you have satisfactorily completed a rigorous scholarly program, which taught you to think critically and intelligently on a wide array of subjects. What a humanities major does not do, is put a roadblock on a career. On the contrary, many experts argue that “interesting” or non-typical majors actually give job applicants an edge in the hiring pool. So there is nothing keeping English majors from entering the business world or philosophy majors from becoming scientists.

But the older generation is certainly not the only one with this mentality. Plenty of people my age who study what they consider to be “practical majors” — sneer at humanities majors or allude to our inevitable end on the streets unless we start studying economics, pronto. It’s an unfortunate mindset that largely determines many college students’ academic trajectory. Rather than focusing on strengths and interests, students immediately delve into whatever baccalaureate program they’re convinced will translate into a higher salary later in life. What’s scary to me about this is that, sure — you’ll have the salary you’ve always dreamed of and make your whole family proud. But you might also realize you’ve spent half your life doing something you hate, only when it’s too late.

Samantha Shokin, 22, is a senior at NYU Gallatin, concentrating in literary journalism. She was born in NYC and lives in Brooklyn with her mother and father, who emigrated from Ukraine and Lithuania, respectively.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Russian, Liberal Arts, Jewish, Education

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.