This is a repost from my Tumblr, Keller’s Daily Post, from February 23,2013.
Happy Valentine’s Day, dear.
I want to tell a story about two people who majored in two very different subjects, how it relates to the current discussion about the worth of a Liberal Arts education, and how they used to see the world in two very different ways.
The boy majored in Finance. He was told it was the smart decision, the practical decision. He took his classes in Managerial Accounting, Investment Analysis, and Corporate Finance. Liberal Arts courses were only taken because one was required and he largely viewed them as a waste of his time. He was serous about his education and he looked forward to an entry-level job in either Corporate Finance or Investment Management. Three years after landing his first job, he would go to grad school as a part-time MBA student with tuition reimbursement from his employer because it was the practical decision. Unless, he was accepted into a top ten business school. Then he’d throw caution to the wind because Top Ten B-Schools were the only ones worth taken out that kind of debt and two years off of work. He had, at least, the next five to ten years of his life planned out and everyone around him told him his plan was a very good one.
The girl studied English Literature because two of her favorite things were reading and writing. She had kept a journal since she was a little girl and she never left home without her book. She was a dreamer and she wanted to turn her life into the stories she loved. She would read, think, and write about those books and how amazing the stories were. How amazing the people were who had written such beautiful stories. She loved reading Jane Austin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. She had a minor…no, a major obsession with Harry Potter. She wanted to study the authors she adored and get to know this beautiful language of English. When she told people about her degree, some were excited and others discouraged her. Many told her horror stories about majoring in Liberal Arts. About how they could never find a job and how it’s a waste of time. She would not be deterred. Studying English Literature was not some passing hobby, it was her passion. It was the reason she was even going to college.
As fate would have it, these to unlikely people meet. As many people already know, whenever you meet a beautiful girl who reads and writes, it is almost impossible to not fall madly in love with them. The boy’s better sense tried to make him believe that this pairing was unnatural. He was a serous man. He liked things like the WSJ, CNBC, and investment books. In the end it was futile to try to resist. The girl was too good to pass up. Not only was she beautiful but what she did to him was even more beautiful. This little Liberal Arts girl showed this boy how to see, how to see the beauty in the world around him. He read books, boring ones, and some times he still reads those boring books. He wasn’t a fan of fiction, because as he said, “I don’t like reading fiction because I don’t feel like I’m learning anything,” but then she proved him wrong by showing him the worlds of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. She persuaded him to read books he thought were for children, like Harry Potter and The Giver. She opened his eyes to a new world. He never realized what fiction could do to a person. How it could change you in ways you never felt possible. Those words, he ate up everyone one of those beautiful words. He was in love. Drunk off the feeling of discovering a new and exciting place. He discovered what he was missing when he first uttered his stupid defense about him not wanting to read fiction. He learned that certain people can create beautiful places and events from a mere flick of their pen or by simply applying pressure to a key on your computer. Then she gave him one of the greatest gifts of his life. She gave him a journal and convinced him to write. This boy, this serious boy with a plan, soon realized that his plan was falling apart and he would never be able to pay her back.
I think this story is the reason this world needs Liberal Arts majors. Their value cannot be measured by starting salaries or career earnings. The Liberal Arts major is not about becoming the next Zuckerberg or Gates, though I imagine if you take a poll, you’d find that the majority of the most successful people in this world studied some type of art (music, literature, photography, painting, etc.) in their life. Liberal Arts majors make this world more beautiful and they help non-Liberal Arts majors see this beauty.