My daughter Sarah is heading off to college in a couple weeks. She will be a freshman at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and she has already decided that she wants to major in Latin and, following in her old man's footsteps, become a Latin teacher. She's excited; her mother's excited; and, of course, I'm excited. All too predictable, though, is the reaction of people when she tells them what she plans to study and then what she plans to due after she graduates. Most are surprised, some are confused, and a couple are even amused. She comes to me with stories of recent conversations with both friends and acquaintances who mean well, but just don't know how to react when someone says that they are pursuing the liberal arts. It is almost as if they are disappointed that my daughter isn't going to be contributing member of society who is out to make a million dollars.
I have had a discussion with my daughter that she will need to harden herself to these types of responses and to get her spiel ready and polished. I was also careful to tell her that she does not need to offer apologies to anyone. She is choosing a course of study which appeals to her and will make her a happy and educated individual. After all, she is going to college in order to receive an education, not to prepare for a job.
Colleges should not be seen as expensive vocational centers training the work-force for the 21st century. What present (and future) employers need are individuals who can think, plan, organize, be creative, collaborate, and communicate. Anyone with these abilities can easily be trained by employers to do what is required in any job and to be a contributing member to society. The world cannot benefit from narrowly-educated, close-minded individuals who are merely out to make money.
We, as educators, need to support and encourage students to pursue whatever field they wish after they leave our classrooms. If a students wishes to go on to college and study math, economics, engineering, and the like, so be it. Likewise, if a student wishes to major in art history, English literature, classical music, or Latin, these are completely valid choices as well. Student who go off to get a degree in the liberal arts should not have to defend or explain themselves. One should never have to apologize for her education.