Ted Turner: “Classical Snob” and “Jackass.” Or “What My Classics Major Can Do For Me”

Posted on November 8th, 2010 by

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/03/major/

A New York Times piece on the real significance of a college major begins with this quote from a letter written by Ted Turner’s father:

I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on my way home today. … I am a practical man, and for the life of me I cannot possibly understand why you should wish to speak Greek. With whom will you communicate in Greek? …

I suppose you will feel that you are distinguishing yourself from the herd by becoming a Classical snob. … I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass, and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me.

The piece goes on to make a number of good points about the value of majoring in something you love even though it may not be seen as “practical.”  It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the gist:

  1. Most people will graduate with higher G.P.A.’s if they study something they are passionate about. High G.P..A’s help graduates land jobs, and there is a fairly strong correlation between class rank and career earnings. Great grades also help with graduate school admissions, and the rigors of liberal arts often lead to better performance on the G.M.A.T. and L.S.A.T. than other majors.
  2. There is a disconnect between students’ perceptions of what employers want and what employers actually want.  Most employers cite communication skills as the most important skill for a candidate to possess
  3. Transferability of skills. It’s become a cliché that the best jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist today. [There is a] potential risk of a major that places job training ahead of mind development.
  4. Most importantly, majoring in something that interests you is just the obvious thing to do. You’ll have more fun, have a richer experience and be less likely to dropout if you are actually passionate about what you’re studying.
 

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