- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 04 March 2015
We’ve all heard them, the choruses of, “Oh you’re a history major? That means you’re going to be a teacher, right?” or, “Communication majors have it so easy.” Many students do not realize that when they declare a major they are also signing themselves up for three to four years worth of stereotyping. These falsities can not only deter students from declaring certain majors, but they can also take a toll on the self-esteem of those who already have.
The Outlook staff agreed that while the humanities tend to get the worst of it, every major is subjected to some kind of stereotyping. Psychology majors are said to be constantly analyzing everyone, business majors are said to be “in it for the money,” and political science majors who do not pursue law school are said to be bound for minimum wage jobs. One editor said, “People say to communication majors things like, ‘You know how to talk to people.’ Art majors are stereotyped as pursuing a passion rather than a career and not getting jobs, or if they do get a job, it won’t be high-paying. English majors are stereotyped as only reading for all homework assignments. History majors are stereotyped as only being teachers or working at museums.’” Another editor noted that math majors get “hit with some tough stereotypes, such as the thick-rimmed, number-crunching nerd idea.”
Several staff members hold passionate feelings regarding the unfair stereotyping of communication majors. One editor said it is extremely irritating when they hear people saying that students who declare communication as their major do it because it is easy or because they “like to communicate.” The editor said, “People assume that communication is a joke but that could not be farther from the truth,” said a staff member. “There is a lot of work and research and time involved in being a comm major and that’s why it annoys me so much to hear people judge us in that way.”
Another editor said she would love to see a student from another major come into the TV studio and try to edit hours worth of footage down to ten minutes. One editor even recalls Joel Mchale from E!’s The Soup poking fun at communication majors when he performed at the University.
So does anyone actually take all of these false stereotypes to heart? The Outlook staff says absolutely, especially when it comes to students who have not yet declared a major. For the most part, the staff agrees that stereotypes can discourage students from majors. Students might steer clear of certain majors in order to avoid criticism that they have heard from their peers.
“I wanted to do marine biology initially, but people told me they make pretty bad money,” said an editor. “If I had done the research for myself, I would have realized that even though they aren’t rich, they get to travel a lot and change the environment.”
Another editor said that if she had heard the term “spin doctor” prior to declaring public relations their freshman year, they might have chosen a different career path.
Peers are not the only ones to blame. One editor said, “I can definitely see this coming into play with parents who believe certain stereotypes about a major, and steer their child toward something more practical instead of what he or she was actually passionate about.”
Many staff members feel that the issue behind all of these stereotypes is that no one takes the time to look at all of the hard work that goes into each and every area of study. All majors require specific sets of skills that not everyone possesses, but not everyone sees it that way. “I think the only way that there could potentially be a way to end the stereotyping of majors would really just be to inform people about what every major is all about,” said one editor. “I feel like once you’ve declared your own major, you pay a lot less attention to everything else and focus more on what you need to do as opposed to what other people are required to do.”
Another editor suggested that if students were required to take introductory classes from other majors as gen-eds instead of being forced to take math or IT it might alleviate stereotypes.
All in all, the staff of The Outlook feels that students should just worry about their own majors and careers and not care so much about what others are doing, because the stereotyping most likely isn’t going away anytime soon. “As humans we are geared to store information in the most simplistic manner possible, and as such, we are susceptible to using heuristics to approach the world and thereby create and proliferate stereotypes about groups of people, collegiate majors included,” said one editor. “Besides, in most cases, these stereotypes are all in good fun, as they don’t personally identify any members of a group, merely the choice that hundreds of thousands of other students have made.”