Stop major shaming

Major Shaming [mey-jer sheym-ing] (v): The act of talking poorly about or looking down upon other majors socially seen as easier or having less work.

Yeah, I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it, too. But it needs to stop.

You know what I’m talking about.

If someone is studying a stereotypically “harder” major, such as biology, chemistry, or math, they must be really smart, right? However, if someone is studying a stereotypically “easier” major, such as English, theatre, or communication, they must not be as smart. They must have taken the easy route through college. They must be, somehow, “lesser-than.”

But that’s not right, in fact, that couldn’t be more wrong.

Think of it this way, everyone is good at something. Maybe it’s a sport, maybe it’s making friends, or maybe it’s being independent. If someone is good at one of those things but not the other, we don’t look down on them as worse than the other person. So why are we doing that with majors?

Someone who is really good at mathematics and decided to become a math major is in no way more intelligent than someone else who is an amazing writer and decided to become an English major.

When you think about it, the math major who excels in that subject is taking an easy route in the same way someone who loves to write and read becomes an English major.

Each person chose the subject that comes most easily to them, and each person chose the subject that fits best with their passion in life or their career goal.

And just because someone chose a certain major, does not automatically exclude them from the ability to excel in a different area of study.

Ashlee Klap, an English department assistant, said in an email interview, “The reason we have chosen majors in the Humanities stems from personal interest in the subjects rather than an inability to understand others.”

So why are we still looking down on those who study the arts?

Now, I’m not trying to advocate that art classes are harder than sciences. I have, currently am, and will be taking both science and communication classes over the course of my four years at California Lutheran University. As a communication major on the pre-med track, I understand the difference in those classes. I structure my schedule around the sciences I need to take.

I plan on my non-science classes being the easier subjects and my sciences being the ones that take up all my time. And let me tell you, that is exactly how it works—for me.

According to the Cal Lutheran website, if you wanted to get either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science- in this case biology, chemistry, or mathematics- the average credits you would need to take over the course of four years would be 39 for just your major in addition to the 16 supporting courses. So essentially, you need 55 credits of just your major to graduate, and that doesn’t even include the recommended courses.

“It makes it harder for students to hold a job or participate in a sport. It makes it harder to participate in things like study abroad,” Kristine Butcher, head of the Cal Lutheran chemistry department, said. “It can be much harder to find science classes in study abroad, so you really just have to abandon your major for a semester. And those things make it difficult, sometimes, to stick with a science major.”

Again, according to the Cal Lutheran website, in order to earn a degree in the stereotypically “easier” majors- in this case art, communication, or English- you would need, on average, 42 credits to graduate. There are no supporting or recommended courses listed.

Looking at just that data, it’s simple to see where the roots of major shaming might come from. Yes, the stereotypically harder majors have more credits to take. And, yes, for people like me, science will take up the majority of your study time and brainpower.

But this is where I draw the line.

Just because someone excels in a subject that requires more hours and more units of study to major in does not, under any circumstances, make that person more intelligent than anyone else.

My sister is about to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in animation from Azusa Pacific University, and let me tell you, she gets a bad rep from people assuming she isn’t as smart as those majoring in sciences.

But looking at the work she does in her art classes blows me away. I don’t know a single person in my organic chemistry lab who could create a colored pencil drawing as realistic as she can. I also don’t know a single person in my ecology and population class who could sew a better sundress out of duct tape.

The work she does is a different kind of intelligence. It’s spatial awareness. It’s creative ingenious. It’s understanding the science of how colors, shapes and materials work together to look simply amazing.

In the same way, science is the art of bringing together molecules and genomes and double-bonded carbons to learn as much as we can about the universe.

Major shaming isn’t just about the amount of units and hours a major takes to complete, it’s about looking down on others’ intelligence. Just because someone’s major doesn’t take as much time as others doesn’t make them a stupid person.

Rachael Balcom
Staff Writer
Published February 3rd, 2016