Every year or two, my husband, an academic advisor at a prestigious Midwestern university, gets a call from a student’s parent. Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so’s son is a sophomore now and still insistent on majoring in film studies, anthropology, Southeast Asian comparative literature or, god forbid … English. These dalliances in the humanities were fine and good when little Johnny was a freshman, but isn’t it time now that he wake up and start thinking seriously about what, one or two or three years down the line, he’s actually going to do?
My husband, loyal first and foremost to his students’ intellectual development, and also an unwavering believer in the inherent value of a liberal arts education, tells me about these conversations with an air of indignation. He wonders, “Aren’t these parents aware of what they signed their kid up for when they decided to let him come get a liberal arts degree instead of going to welding school?” Also, he says, “The most aimless students are often the last ones you want to force into a career path. I do sort of hate to enable this prolonged adolescence, but I also don’t want to aid and abet the miseries of years lost to a misguided professional choice.”
Now, I love my husband. Lately, however, I find myself wincing when he recounts these stories.