1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby DanAxtell » Mon May 07, 2012 10:44 am UTC

The 1960s dabbled unsuccessfully with major-less colleges. Blame President James Garfield. In 1871, he said,"The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other," referring to the professor-later-president of Williams College. Walter Hendricks, founder of Marlboro College, founded Mark Hopkins College in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1964. It had essentially no structure and lasted 13 years.

Why did it fail? Was it because Professor Hopkins was badly decomposed by 1964? Perhaps history majors could help design a successful major-less college without repeating the mistakes of the period.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby bfeist » Mon May 07, 2012 10:59 am UTC

And chemistry with an infection's what we call biology.

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Re: Every Major's Terrible

Postby Haylo » Mon May 07, 2012 11:09 am UTC

tuxedobob wrote:Also, am I the only one who hadn't heard of the Elements song but has seen Pirates of Penzance?


I haven't heard of the Elements song either, then again my interest in popular culture has always been minimal and finally waned approximately quarter of a century ago.

davidad wrote:I understand I am owed at least six internets?

http://youtu.be/Gu1VhsNOwPU

Excellent rendition Sir.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby teelo » Mon May 07, 2012 11:12 am UTC

So that just leaves... Law and Politics! Okay, brb majoring in one of those.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby dabney.copeland » Mon May 07, 2012 11:15 am UTC

> ...Ph.D. in undeclared.

No way you'll be first. Emory University's Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts has had a Ph.D. in General Studies for years.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby jonadab » Mon May 07, 2012 11:20 am UTC

Actually, majoring in history does NOT prepare you for a job teaching history. If you want to get a job teaching history (or math, or any other subject), you have to major in education. You only take a couple of classes in the actual subject you're going to teach.

Yes, really. All your teachers in junior high and high school? They had 2-3 college classes in the subject they were teaching you (plus another 3-4 classes in "how to teach [subject]", all but one of which are the same ones the elementary-education majors also take, and one more course in "what the state standards require students in each grade to learn about [subject]", and believe me, if you'd only learned the things the state standards required you would NEVER have gotten into college, unless you count taking two courses per semester at a state university branch campus as "college").

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby relmn3iko » Mon May 07, 2012 11:49 am UTC

Good thing I majored in Asian Studies, eh? Eh? Dodged a bullet there! Ha!

I suppose it's just a mix of various disciplines focusing on a different area of the globe. But languages seem underrepresented in the song.

I double-majored in English (linguistics focus, not lit), for all the good that does me. I just wish I could impart my current knowledge to my 7th-grade self so I could use arguments against prescriptivism to talk my way out of doing grammar worksheets.

I'm told fluency in a second language is more useful if you're in business. Oh well.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby wolfticket » Mon May 07, 2012 11:51 am UTC

babble wrote:Is anyone offended by the Sophie's Choice reference, btw? Bit irreverent towards anyone who's lost a child?

The well known TV show Friends made the same irreverent comparison. Twice.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby relmn3iko » Mon May 07, 2012 12:01 pm UTC

jonadab wrote:Actually, majoring in history does NOT prepare you for a job teaching history. If you want to get a job teaching history (or math, or any other subject), you have to major in education. You only take a couple of classes in the actual subject you're going to teach.

Yes, really. All your teachers in junior high and high school? They had 2-3 college classes in the subject they were teaching you (plus another 3-4 classes in "how to teach [subject]", all but one of which are the same ones the elementary-education majors also take, and one more course in "what the state standards require students in each grade to learn about [subject]", and believe me, if you'd only learned the things the state standards required you would NEVER have gotten into college, unless you count taking two courses per semester at a state university branch campus as "college").


...are you American? Wow, no wonder education is so bad down there. Please tell me it isn't like that in every state, zomg.

In Canada highschool teachers have to have a BA in their specialty, but I think depending on your area of study and the province you can roll with a minor too (elective classes like music generally don't require a major iirc), and then you have to get a teaching degree on top of that (in my province it's a 12-month intensive program). There are also specific course requirements - I know if you want to be an English teacher you have to take a certain number of literature classes from different eras and you're advised to take at least one class on Shakespeare. You have to take some linguistics classes iirc as well as some other stuff if you want to teach ESL. You also must have a minimum GPA to even get into the teaching program as well as a lot of hours of teaching experience (generally volunteer or teaching ESL).
Last edited by relmn3iko on Mon May 07, 2012 12:05 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Every Major's Terrible

Postby Jez » Mon May 07, 2012 12:03 pm UTC

Haylo wrote:
tuxedobob wrote:Also, am I the only one who hadn't heard of the Elements song but has seen Pirates of Penzance?


I haven't heard of the Elements song either, then again my interest in popular culture has always been minimal and finally waned approximately quarter of a century ago.


Just to make a point, Tom Lehrers career effectively ended in the very early 70's so that's no excuse for not having heard it. Anyone with any interest in science/satire/humour/not being a robot really needs to have a listen to him on spotify or whatever your poison of choice, he's an absolute comic genius.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Cardinal of the Kremlin » Mon May 07, 2012 12:08 pm UTC

The tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire" worked just as well. Well, until we got to the song's chorus tune. Then I got screwed.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Kitutal » Mon May 07, 2012 12:10 pm UTC

Oh, I remember this choice, so many options, none I wanted to put that much time and effort and perhaps the rest of my life into.
I note there's no complaints about architecture, though, pretty much what happened with me, I thought it can't be too bad, and I'm better at drawing if I can measure every line to make sure it's all accurate. four years later, still regretting that choice, but it's ok, I'm aiming for a job in a shop when I graduate anyway.

unless you have a specific career in mind, it's actually statistically better to have years of work experience than a degree in some random subject, but at the same time, university's an important life experience that shouldn't be skipped just for that fact. so just pick something you enjoy doing and remember you'll probably be struggling to find a job of any sort most of your life anyway.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby david_h » Mon May 07, 2012 12:15 pm UTC

Hi all,

Long time XKCD reader, first time posterer (to the best of my hazy recollection). I was only thinking to myself the other day that you can wait years for an affectionately scathing indictment of graduate education set to the music of Gilbert & Sullivan, and then one comes along at once - and I was even more delighted to find out that someone had already sung it and put it on YouTube, of course - but isn't this just crying out for a hastily cobbled-together crowd-sourced music video depicting every panel (or variations thereupon)?

David

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby flicky1991 » Mon May 07, 2012 12:17 pm UTC

Anyone else notice that the alt-text matches the metre of the song?
any pronouns
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby BethK » Mon May 07, 2012 12:30 pm UTC

Kudos to David Dalrymple for the video. Well done.

As a CompSci professor and mother of college-age kids, I loved the comic on many levels. Choosing one major when you're 17 or 20 is difficult. I double-majored in computer science and English. My daughter is doing mechanical engineering and international studies. My son might do filmmaking, linguistics, and something else. Not sure yet. Randall couldn't include *every* major. He hit on a broad variety of them. I agree that a poster would be great.

Try this Pirates of Penzance video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSGWoXDFM64

I signed in to rebut jonadab's comment. At least in Pennsylvania, secondary education majors (such as middle school history teachers or high school math teachers) take a substantial number of courses in their subject area as well as related areas. For example, the Math Education majors take Math Proofs, Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis, and additional math electives. They also take a course on teaching math in secondary schools. It's unlikely that your college professors have had courses in teaching. There are other routes to teaching, but a lot of the teachers have degrees in their area as well as coursework in how to teach.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby shylocxs » Mon May 07, 2012 12:43 pm UTC

Art Historian here! Made the sixth panel! Whoohoo! Sixthsies!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Thought this lined up neatly with my development of an old adage: those who can't do, teach, while those who can't teach, teach the history of it.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Draco18s » Mon May 07, 2012 12:45 pm UTC

ks_physicist wrote:I'm just fuming that "physics major" redirects to engineer.

Wouldn't bother me quite so much if physics majors could actually still have a decent chance of getting jobs as engineers (as was apparently one the case).


Actually, it redirects to physics education, which is worse (it falls into the same trap as a History degree).

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Nylonathatep » Mon May 07, 2012 12:59 pm UTC

Can we actually start a Poll here on everyone's major?

I'll start: Double Major in Business & Economics.


And ofcourse:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t48-3-Ew9mY

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Snark » Mon May 07, 2012 1:01 pm UTC

Statistics isn't on the list, and somehow I'm offended that my major didn't get called terrible. I guess I'll just adopt the math one.
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Swarfy » Mon May 07, 2012 1:14 pm UTC

This just reminded me of the TV show Studio 60...

For those wondering - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9iTOcEHkoo

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby soundandfury » Mon May 07, 2012 1:20 pm UTC

Bad pun: The Maths panel demonstrates that mathematicians can get employment from the military, in the field of logistics.
(At least, I think that cannonball trajectory's meant to be the bifurcation diagram of the logistic map).
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby *Kat* » Mon May 07, 2012 1:22 pm UTC

Nylonathatep wrote:Can we actually start a Poll here on everyone's major?

I'll start: Double Major in Business & Economics.




History

*hangs head in shame*

with a minor in Anthropology

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby KiaserZohsay » Mon May 07, 2012 1:30 pm UTC

ks_physicist wrote:I'm just fuming that "physics major" redirects to engineer.

Wouldn't bother me quite so much if physics majors could actually still have a decent chance of getting jobs as engineers (as was apparently one the case).


Actually, I just checked, and it redirects to "Physics Education". Try it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physics_major

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby charmuska » Mon May 07, 2012 1:36 pm UTC

Someday I'll be the first to get a Ph. D in 'Undeclared'.

It is a rather unfortunate truth for which I'm well prepared.
If you were I you'd see that here, there is no other recompense.
It is the only major that is majoring in common sense.


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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby BroSciencePhD » Mon May 07, 2012 1:41 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:Kept waiting for Poli Sci, the default back when I was in college (getting my liberal arts degree).



Poli Sci is good if you're too argumentative
but party guests will find your egomania repetitive.

Finance offers you a chance you join the one percent
but at such odds where lotto tickets would work as an expedient.

I'm a double major in these two, I can say these things.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Story » Mon May 07, 2012 1:42 pm UTC

I was just about to post about how surprised I was that noone has pointed about the true Physics Major redirect yet, only to find two on the last page.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Malvoss » Mon May 07, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

ks_physicist wrote:I'm just fuming that "physics major" redirects to engineer.

Wouldn't bother me quite so much if physics majors could actually still have a decent chance of getting jobs as engineers (as was apparently one the case).


Aha, finally my choice of Engineering Physics makes sense!! Well, plus the fact I've been employed since graduating I guess.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby BroSciencePhD » Mon May 07, 2012 1:55 pm UTC

Less Than Liz wrote:As long as you don't go to law school.


The prospect of a law degree can put your parents' mind at ease
but will ultimately turn you into Mephistopheles.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby justalurkr » Mon May 07, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

Am trying not to crow about overlooking International Relations (UC Davis, 1984) but have a terrible suspicion it's lumped in with something else in the comic (hides SCUBA gear.)

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby JoyHeart » Mon May 07, 2012 1:57 pm UTC

No mention of my major, Archaeology, which is like a history major only actual history majors look down on you as their future lackey because you plan on actually doing the work required to uncover the history they're studying.
Last edited by JoyHeart on Mon May 07, 2012 7:58 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby rcox1 » Mon May 07, 2012 2:04 pm UTC

DanAxtell wrote:The 1960s dabbled unsuccessfully with major-less colleges. Blame President James Garfield. In 1871, he said,"The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other," referring to the professor-later-president of Williams College. Walter Hendricks, founder of Marlboro College, founded Mark Hopkins College in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1964. It had essentially no structure and lasted 13 years.

Why did it fail? Was it because Professor Hopkins was badly decomposed by 1964? Perhaps history majors could help design a successful major-less college without repeating the mistakes of the period.


I think we have fallen to other extreme, the college with no broad education. I often here how people want to do this, or want to do that, but don't want an education. They don't want to read Elliot, or history, or math, or science. They just want to learn to do something. My quite blunt response is why do you, then, want to waste societies time and money if all you are going to be is a technician. Go out get some private loans and go to trade school. What makes a democracy work is well educated populous, and that is the value of society paying for college. Not learning to build a computer or fix a car, skills that will be out of date in five years anyway.

Clearly college should impart some skills, and a classical education in the Humanities, Maths, Sciences, and Art does this. I fail to see that a modern degree in business, technology, or the such provides such value.

For such things, I do see great value in two year schools where people with educational less than a doctorate can teach remedial core classes and skill classes so that the graduates can go out and be productive and minimally educated. What I don't believe is this should be based on the inability to pay for college, as tends to be now. It should simply be based on the interest and ability of the perspective student.

Otherwise any major from a school that is serious about education will lead to the motivated graduate have attaining a good life. A degree is no magic bullet, but an education does provide problem solving skills that are critical to navigating life challenges.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Sprocket » Mon May 07, 2012 2:24 pm UTC

If there's one thing I feel like I've learned, it's that for the most part every major is absolutely what you make of it, and most of the stuff that ends you up in a career is based on you going out and doing extra things in the first place, and pushing hard elsewhere, unless you go to a school like North Eastern that actually has you set up in internships as part of your school-career.

I myself set myself up in an internship, as my school didn't provide them, but then proceeded to shy away from the things that would have taught me anything because I was still a pretty nervous person who would just back away from critical people and avoid situations where people might judge me. That's not because of school being bad, that was me needing to grow in a way that a school environment can't enforce.

College is still not about learning a trade, and I will say there is often a difference between young people who have gone to college, and those who haven't. They tend to be less caught up in the values of their parents and home-town, for example, and a little more aware and accepting of people who are different than themselves. Do I feel like schools should probably be more about teaching you something you can tangibly use? Sure. Should they be more straight forward about their purpose? Absolutely. Do I feel like their prime directive should be your employment? I can not fucking decide on that. I feel like it would change things a good deal. As it is I managed to get out without a history class (not that I didn't try to take a few, I just couldn't) and some of my more tech/science focused friends avoided more culturally enlightening subjects while I was having fun critical theory discussions, I don't feel like the focus is too heavily sided AWAY from ones major. However, everyone I know from my school basically, who got a job in their field did so mostly of their own focus, merits and volition. The grand majority of people I knew in college are not doing anything related to their major at all.
Last edited by Sprocket on Mon May 07, 2012 2:29 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby bernerbrau » Mon May 07, 2012 2:27 pm UTC

My one beef with today's comic is that for my computer science degree, I learned many things far more esoteric and irrelevant than paren balancing.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby BlitzGirl » Mon May 07, 2012 2:44 pm UTC

I tried to go the Undeclared route...but today's colleges are too adept at shoehorning students into majors. The university I attended had a separate, "exploratory" college that undergrads were allowed to work within for three semesters. It separated the undecideds into four basic pre-major tracks: social sciences, health and life sciences, math/tech/physical sciences, and fine arts/humanities. Each semester every undecided then had to take a class that explored the majors offered, which was mind-numbingly boring. At the end of three semesters, you were kicked out of the college and forced to declare.

Trust me, it's not worth it to be an undecided college student these days.
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby evac156 » Mon May 07, 2012 2:45 pm UTC

Thank you. Thank you. Having seen this brilliant comic, I may be able to get through the rest of my crappy day.

Although of course, not every major's terrible. A lot of the learning can be fun. It's what you get stuck doing with it later that's the problem. I was completely decided on my majors. It's life itself that has me 25 years after graduation still putting down, "Undecided."

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby plsander » Mon May 07, 2012 2:47 pm UTC

Jurgan wrote:
benwr wrote:Did something weird happen? Google reader tells me today's comic is called "Ten Thousand" and I can find mirrors of a "Ten Thousand" comic that point to #1052, but #1052 is "Every Major's Terrible."


I saw that. I checked about twenty minutes ago and "Ten Thousand" was up. It was something about taking joy in people discovering common knowledge for the first time. My guess is that Randall accidentally loaded a comic he was saving for another time. My first thought was that we were seeing another Umwelt situation, but I don't think so.


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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby PDXTai » Mon May 07, 2012 2:51 pm UTC

Draco18s wrote:
ks_physicist wrote:I'm just fuming that "physics major" redirects to engineer.

Wouldn't bother me quite so much if physics majors could actually still have a decent chance of getting jobs as engineers (as was apparently one the case).


Actually, it redirects to physics education, which is worse (it falls into the same trap as a History degree).


It's been edited a few times recently (see the "View History" tab (not that kind of History):

(Undid revision 491143028 by 72.204.179.210 (talk) xkcd isn't a valid reason to redirect)


You mean xkcd isn't a valid source?

Any missing close parens are left as an exercise to the CS majors.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Darryl » Mon May 07, 2012 2:56 pm UTC

jonadab wrote:Actually, majoring in history does NOT prepare you for a job teaching history. If you want to get a job teaching history (or math, or any other subject), you have to major in education. You only take a couple of classes in the actual subject you're going to teach.

Yes, really. All your teachers in junior high and high school? They had 2-3 college classes in the subject they were teaching you (plus another 3-4 classes in "how to teach [subject]", all but one of which are the same ones the elementary-education majors also take, and one more course in "what the state standards require students in each grade to learn about [subject]", and believe me, if you'd only learned the things the state standards required you would NEVER have gotten into college, unless you count taking two courses per semester at a state university branch campus as "college").

Yeah, that's not true at all. Maybe in your state, but certainly not throughout the states.

Here, an adolescent ed. major has to take 12 courses (36 credit hours) of their subject area (which for social studies is Micro- and Macro- econ, Geography, Western Civ II, Europe and the World, US History to 1877, US History from 1877, CHOICE: History of Modern Germany -OR- Modern Russia, US in World Affairs, State and Local Government, Political Developments: Latin America, and Global Studies Senior Seminar). And that's just undergrad. Most get their Masters in Education, their subject area, or something like History Education. (Granted, I'm in New York state, which requires a Master's degree for educators within 5 years of initial licensing.)
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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby Whys » Mon May 07, 2012 2:56 pm UTC

I know this may seem a vast over simplification, but do what what makes sense to you. It seems like everyone pursues a career like some temporary chore to be completed and disposed of. As if money were not only the means to a life purpose, but also the ends.

In many ways, money represents our counter-activity in opposition to the forces of entropy. We work to change things differently from their default change. That is the process of living in it's purest form and the process is eternal. In other words, learn to like it. No, your dream job does not await. No, your natural talents do not automatically translate into a living. Yes, you'll probably end up with a job you didn't expect but that pays the bills. Yes, you'll loath it at times. But more important than all of that, it should makes sense to you. Your career is not a chore, it's the rest of your life. Live it. If you always do what makes sense to you, you'll never be poorer than you want to be. Believe it or not, a good life can be had for very little money, and too much can be counter productive. It's not that it's bad to make a lot of money, but where is the good in paying for a life you aren't truly living?

Don't think about the dollars; think about the sense.


edit: oh, and stay out of debt. You aren't truly impoverished until you take more than you give.

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Re: 1052: “Every Major’s Terrible”

Postby mr_interpreter » Mon May 07, 2012 3:05 pm UTC

Did my undergrad in Elgihs and French lit (as useless as it sounds), then a masters in a profession. The second degree was much more useful than the first. Hoping my PhD continues the trend.

Still, that is a great 'toon. I also noticed that Linguistics was missed out. Trust me, it is just as useless, check out Specgram for proof.


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