“But you’re an arts major.”
“Not as hard of a program.”
“You have so much time.”
As an arts major, specifically a double major in English and Communications, I hear comments such as these ones almost daily. For the most part they don’t bother me, particularly when they’re on their own. But really, each and every single comment is like a little barb—a little sting.
Each comment is a reminder of what many people think nowadays. They think that arts isn’t as important, isn’t as useful, as disciplines such as math, medicine, business, science, engineering…those are for the “smart” people. Those are for the people who want to work “hard”.
Those programs are hard, for sure, and I know that the people in these programs are smart. One of my closest friends is in business, and I know that my Dad took biology when he was in university. My point here, something that I kind of spoke about in my last post here, is that there is an amazing number of not only smart, but dedicated and extremely passionate people in arts programs.
It is true that we don’t have the same kind of work as programs that include science and math. We don’t have complicated algebra problems or physics questions. But do you know what we have? Analytical essays that examine the countless novels that we read every single term, and comparative essays that look at different aspects of each. We write presentations looking at commercials that we see every single day on television. In some classes we talk about the importance of female writers. We write our own stories, our own poems…the list could go on.
In arts, we often don’t have right answers. We may have guidelines and concepts that we need to follow, but when push comes to shove—it is how well we present our point of view, how well we articulate our voice. In arts, we find ourselves reading hundreds of pages every single week and sometimes, if we manage to find the time, we reread before exams. I’ve written four essays in a term before. More often than not my essays are around 5 pages long, but I’ve had some in the 8 to 10 page range as well.
It’s not the same kind of difficulty as science or math. But it’s difficult all the same. You have to look way beyond what others might see in a book or in a movie. You have to find the importance, even when it looks like there may be none.
As for the time…I cannot speak for every single arts student, but the reason that I have the amount of free time that I do is because I meticulously plan out my studying, reading, and other work so that I have everything done before it needs to be. I create a buffer, and while I never intend to use the buffer, I know that it’s there if I need it. I make sure that I can get everything done. Everyone has the time, they just have to find it.
Without arts students, we wouldn’t have the popular movies or television shows. Without arts students, we wouldn’t have the bestselling books on shelves. Without art students, the world would be different.
We need arts students, just as we need people to study math and science.
So why do people look down on arts?
I’ll never understand why.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again. I went into English because it’s something that I love. I could have done something with math or science, but I don’t love either of those things. The only difference, in my opinion, is the pay I can expect when I finish. But that doesn’t matter to me. I can live on a lower salary, but I cannot live with myself if I am doing something I don’t care about.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read books. Every single book has the potential to open up an entirely new world to the reader. I am a firm believer that everyone is a reader and that they simply have to find the right book to set them on that path. Some never do, I know, so I consider myself lucky to have found mine when I was so young.
Most of my books are back home, but there are four on my shelf here that are so important. One I bought in September last year, two were a gift, and one I spent months trying to find so that I could complete my collection. They are the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings in special collector’s edition cloth bound hard covers. While they weren’t the books to make me fall in love with reading, they are the ones that I love the most. The world within those pages is so immersive…so beautiful. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the author of these gorgeous novels, graduated with honours in English Language and Literature in 1915 (though he originally went to study Classics). Even if you have not read the novels themselves, you have probably seen the movies based on the books. We would not have them if it had not been for Tolkien. An arts student.
Every single program of study is home to a huge number of dedicated and intelligent students.
Plain and simple.