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Subject: A Naturalist Defense of the English Major
Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2003 22:04:28 -0700 (PDT)

Dr. Gabilondo, please feel free to read at your convenience. It's not a very important or crucial email, just something I thought you might find funny.

The other day in class, you called upon me to give my defense of why I choose English as my major field of study. At the time, I said something to the affect of English being a subject that teaches me to think for myself and how to teach myself (for example, I just re-read the Tyson book after looking at the study guide and realizing I had no clue what any of it was saying thanks to a tendency within me to day-dream and not take good notes).

Alas, though, I must change my stance on this question. My ever-optimistic roommate, William Fabre, walked into the house the other day and made a statement that will forever change the way I perceive my life.

"Do you realize," he sighed, "that only one out of three students in our area of study get jobs or are accepted into graduate programs after graduation."

I, being the pompous man that I am and feeling particularly smart after giving my defense earlier in the week in your class, replied with, "Well, it's a good thing I'm smarter than one out of every three English majors I know!"

Will just stared at me with that annoyed look that he has.

"Well, where did you hear this?" I asked.

"In one of my English classes."

I thought long and hard as I developed the following theory:

There are forces outside of us that force us to be English majors. Many come to school thinking they are making a good choice. I know that I personally was told by many of my high school instructors, "Nicholls has a real good English program."

Again, I assert, we think we are making good choices! We are attending school, enrolling in classes that stimulate our minds and force us to think "outside the box." We are able to study not just literary works but human culture and thought. Literary studies, we tell ourselves, is one of the only fields of study that encompasses so many other areas as well - from history to science to psychology.

But yet, does it really? What if the naturalist is right? What if divine cosmic forces are working outside of us, telling us that we are making the right decision, causing us to lie to ourselves? Telling us, "You will become a better individual. You will learn to think on your own. You won't end up as a teacher one day; you will still be able to pursue other options because you are becoming an independent thinker."

What is worse is some English majors don't even have a defense. The outside force tells them - gasp - it is okay to study this stuff just because you like it. And they believe it!

At first I thought, no, this is a bunch of baloney. I don't even like naturalism! Give me modernism or, at the very least, realism! But then I took a look at a case study: my own life.

I started out in school in computer science. It would be one thing if I was bad at it, but I was good at it! I made good grades in the classes I took, but just found it incredibly boring. There is no way I want to do this the rest of my life, I thought. Overlooking the fact that I forsook a field of study in which all your college admissions team personal say (in a very cheery way, no less) is a field with an every growing job market, I changed my major to a field of study that I was both interested in and good at - English.

At the time it seemed like a good choice. It was something I loved to do, or was it?

I now look back at my attitudes of those first classes I took - 251 and 252. I remember saying to my roommate at the time, "You know, I don't even like to read." In a normal situation, I would have had a roommate to talk me out of it and pursue a major I did like. But, alas, fate had other ideas. I had Antione as a roommate. He just kind of grunted and ate some pudding. To make matters worse, it was my pudding.

Eventually, I took some other classes and I began to enjoy them. A creative writing class and a couple of course in American literature (with some really interesting and passionate teachers, I might add) convinced me that I had done right by persevering and pushing through. In fact, I actually enjoy reading again. It's amazing.

But yet, when people ask me what I plan to do after I graduate, I can never answer.

"English, eh? What are you going to do with that degree? Teach?"

"No, I have no desire to teach."

"Well then what?"

It is usually here that I go into a pre-planned speech about how "English majors actually have plenty of options! I could work in business or journalism or this area or that area." Usually they nod. They never ask why I didn't just study those areas, so I assume they understand. Perhaps it is just fate working against me.

And now, here I am, in my senior year, and I learn the hopelessness of those in my situation. Perhaps I am cursed to teach. America's great young minds of today teaching America's great young minds of tomorrow in an endless circle of fate's cruel destiny upon the lives of all English majors everywhere. That is, of course, considering that I am even accepted into graduate school. The fact remains that I could be teaching in the public school system. America's great minds of today teaching America's average minds of tomorrow. What a pity.

The irony of fate is not only that I learn this my senior year, but the fact that there is absolutely no ounce of energy within me that seriously wants to even consider changing my major. I have been convinced that I love it! I am, alas, walking the road to Hades with a smile on my face!

But here, Dr. Gabilondo, is where you may be saying, "Joshua, this has been very convincing, but you have missed an important part of my lecture on naturalism! These outside forces don't just choose people randomly! They deal with social status, birth and family, your place in the social order, and stuff like that! Didn't you read Miss Julie or anything else I've assigned to you?"

Well, esteemed professor, my mother is an eighth-grade English teacher.