06 November 2009

The College Majors' Hierarchy

I have to this point resisted the urge to shamelessly categorize my fellow students and students in general but recent events have taught me that not only am I completely unsurprisingly the dumbest guy in most rooms, but when that fact brings me down there are plenty of bigger idiots on campus to make me feel better about myself. There are some truly brilliant people at my school and if there were any justice in this world they'd make enough money to buy and sell me a thousand times over rather than the other way around. Now then, from smartest to dumbest:

Natural Sciences Majors.
I once had a chemistry teacher who says "any science that ends in -ology isn't a real science. All sciences are ultimately derived from mathematics, and the only pure sciences are physics and chemistry." I don't know that I believe that. I do know that pre-med students and nursing students hold study groups in hallways, and their ability to toss around the sort of science that leaves my accounting-major brain tied completely in knots trying to follow their conversations proves beyond a reasonable doubt that I am nowhere near smart enough to do what they do, and neither, I suspect, is anyone else in my section of school. The physicists and chemists and doctors and nurses and such will be jerked around by a system that parcels out research grants like Scrooge parceled out time off to Bob Cratchit and by a government that seems hell bent on making their lives miserable. It sucks. They're the smartest people in the room.

Classical Liberal Arts/Humanities Majors.
Not garbage pseudoscience bullshit like psychology and sociology---I'll get to them later. I'm talking the Seven Liberal Arts along with the Renaissance additions to the classical curriculum. These folks aren't quite as sharp as the hard science majors, and I'd question the intelligence of incurring tens of thousands of dollars in debts when your education will get you a job at Starbucks in a rewarding, intellectually challenging, "your friends from high school will still envy your intellect like they did as teenagers" (thanks Nora) after you graduate, but they create beauty in the written word, music, and the visual arts that contributes far more to society than some paper-pushing, money-grubbing pirate in a necktie who majors in business. There should be a way for these folks to make a good living because civilization wouldn't be what it is without them. Then again, maybe there is---a good many of these folks end up in law school, and having a humanities major who got his juris doctor on my side when one of my customers decides to sue me will be a nice perk. I love my core humanities class largely because it's mostly populated by people who are far smarter than I am.

Business Majors.
It says more about the low quality of the majors below this point in the hierarchy than it does about business that the business majors rank this high. At least business folks get credit for understanding that having an education serve a purpose is a good way to live well, even if so many business majors go on to empty-headed, vapid lives in McMansions. 'Tis said (and I forget by whom) that "growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell." I remain amazed and a little bit disgusted by the sheer volume of money I'll make as a dual-major in accounting and finance once I pass the CPA exam and get my securities license from the SEC. If everything goes the way I'm hoping, I'll be in that elite 5% of Americans who get to thoroughly screw the other 95% out of their money. To paraphrase Clausewitz, "Finance is the continuation of mathematics by other means."

Even within the business department there's a hierarchy as well, though: Econ guys are smarter than accounting guys are smarter than finance guys are smarter than management guys are smarter than the drooling morons who major in marketing. A monkey could major in marketing and come up with a way to sell thrown poo and monkey spooge to consumers as a beauty aid. Forgive me if I don't exactly clamor to their intellectual defense.

Computer Science Majors.
"Computer Science" is an insult to the natural world. Furthermore, just because someone is nerdy does not make them intelligent. It may make proof that they've a raging case of Asperger's Syndrome, but intelligent? Nay. Besides choosing a major that will prepare them for the exciting world of having their jobs outsourced to Bangalore, I've never met a computer science major who could talk with any degree of intelligence or wit about anything that isn't a computer program or a Japanese cartoon. They're the most thoroughly awful conversationalists I've ever met, dull and uninteresting in befitting their "awkward nerd" stereotype. They put the "idiot" in "idiot savant."

Gender- and Ethnic-Studies Majors, And Other Bullshit They Made Up So Morons Could Go To College.
You know the types. Earnest, idealistic, more philosophy than sense. Entire academic disciplines have been made up so that drooling retards who nonetheless had mommy and daddy tell them to go to college can be kept away from the people with brains like some sort of zombie quarantine (just without the inevitable "containment has failed! Run for your lives!" sort of George Romero plot twist and without Simon Pegg swinging a cricket bat.) Women's studies, ethnic studies, psychology, sociology, anthropology, "general studies", underwater basket weaving, playing on the football team...these are the people who the liberal arts majors get to boss around at that Starbucks after graduation. I can't condone anyone who borrows tens of thousands of dollars and gets absolutely no useful skills at all, not even the sorts of classical skills that can at the very least send a liberal arts major to law school. Can we just create some way to make these people go directly to mopping the floor at McDonald's?

OK, so I've made massive, broad generalizations here and I'm about guaranteed to have insulted and horribly offended someone in the process, particularly anyone who couldn't find themselves by the third item. But still, I feel a certain obligation as chronicler of my college education to set this stuff to print.


  1. My dad was an English major, and went on to a sucessful career in computer science. I majored in the even more usefull 'Interdisciplinary Humanities with an emphasis in Literature and Theology,' and have only ever been on the recieving side of the Starbucks counter.

    What I'm trying to get at here is that an education that teaches you how to read and think critically is valuable no matter what your career path. Which is probably why your school requires you to take those core humanities classes in the first place.

    That said, the wisdom of "incurring tens of thousands of dollars in debts" is questionable. But I feel like that says more about the need for reform within the educational system than it does about the students themselves.

  2. And lo, someone who was smarter than me back in Wakefield runs circles around me here. Truly, some things never change.

    If I ran the world, there would be more immediate and ready incentive for people to major in the classical humanities rather than shunting them into business classes and saying "go make a career". Then again, if the humanities were highly incentivized, my dumb ass wouldn't be able to make any money, so it's kind of a wash.

    Can we at least agree that there are some truly flaky majors out there?

  3. I don't know how much smarter I am -- I misspelled useful up there.

    But yes: there are some truly flakey majors out there.

  4. The only thing that horribly offends me is that engineers aren't anywhere on the list. There's nothing natural about our science!

    As for computer science majors, one of my favorite memories of college is sitting in Biology recitation and watching the CS majors' heads explode. They'd be so cocky in Calculus class but they just couldn't understand sodium channels.


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