‘Why I Let My Daughter Get a “Useless” College Degree’
“My oldest child, Emma, just returned to campus after a long holiday break to finish up her last semester of college.
“But even before she has put the final period on her senior thesis, friends and family have been bombarding me with one question: What is she going to do after graduation?
“The job market is, after all, awfully tough. Just this month the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released a study showing that ‘recent graduates are increasingly working in low-wage jobs or working part-time,’ if they’re lucky enough to find work at all.
“The bright spot, according to the Fed analysis, students who majored in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—areas in which recent graduates ‘have tended to do relatively well, even in today’s challenging labor market.’ But Emma is a student of the much-maligned humanities—an American Studies major with a focus on the politics and culture of food at a small liberal arts school.
“For quite a while, I tripped all over myself to describe how her field of study is so trendy right now that I’m not the least bit worried she will find a decent job. ‘Emma’s concentration and interests could lead her in any number of directions,’ I would tell people. ‘Writing for a food blog. Working at a nonprofit that improves health and nutrition for the urban poor. Managing social media for a food-related startup.’”
“Clearly, I wasn’t just explaining; I was over-explaining in an attempt to rationalize how Emma’s chosen path will turn into a steady paycheck. It’s as if her employment status were a referendum on the choices that my husband and I have made about her education. In retrospect, I’d hit a common pitfall: equating Emma’s personal success with my own success as a parent.
“Yet the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve decided to be honest. ‘I’m not sure what Emma is going to do,’ I now say. ‘But she’s gotten a great education and has really found her passion—and I know those things will serve her well over the course of her life.’”
(Here’s what I get out of the mother’s writing: Oh, my god, I have so failed to teach my daughter! Her degree in … Oh, my god, American Studies with a focus on the politics and culture of food!!! She will starve!)