That's advice?

30 May 2005
12:54 PM

I was reading our local paper, the Standard Examiner, when I stumbled across an article that offered advice for high school graduates. The advice? “Pick a major, fast.” The source? The chairman of the board for higher education in Utah. Here are some lowlights:

Karras said students need to think their plans and goals through. For example, majoring in history may be interesting, but … “Where does that leave the student when he graduates?” Karras said.

You’re just wasting time and money if you don’t choose a major relatively early, said Weber State freshman Ricardo Ontiveros, 25, of Ogden. He is majoring in criminal justice. “You’ve got to know right away,” he said.

Since a lot of the advice in the article was completely contradictory to what I learned while I was at school, I sent a letter to the editor. They printed it shortly after the original article ran. Here is my letter (which is just a few words shy of the 250 word limit):

I read the advice for the class of 2005 (“Pick a major, fast!” May 23 news article) with great disappointment. Such advice, which has become commonplace today, misunderstands the purpose of a university. It is a shame to see this advice perpetuated by Mr. Karras, chairman of a board dedicated to higher education in Utah. While students, parents and others have embraced the idea of college as a means to a job, it is much more.

A university is not a technical school; its goal is not merely to prepare students for jobs. Universities exist foremost to produce educated individuals. They train people to think critically, analyze and express themselves. These are skills sorely needed in many professions and in the world today at large.

Karras says that majoring in history is nice, but “Where does that leave the student when he graduates?” If universities do their jobs, they leave the students with all they need to be successful.

Rather than learning the facts needed for a single career, students will learn valuable new ways of thinking, which are an asset in any career and in life itself.

To answer Karras simply, majoring in history seemed to leave Lee Iacocca, Martha Stewart and six U.S. presidents in a pretty good place.

High school graduates should follow this advice above all: don’t hurry. Find a field that you are passionate about, embrace it and use it to develop yourself as an educated individual.

The paper only allows one published letter per month, which is probably a good thing. Recently there has been a slew of letters and articles about intelligent design and evolution as Utah considers adding the former to science classes. If there weren’t any restriction, I’d probably be writing letters all day long.