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!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • 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.