Lunched with a student the other day who had a checkered past, in the sense that he'd bounced around the world and around the job market for several years before he needed to settle down and get an education. I asked him what he majored in and he said something about "hobby major," which in his case meant history. I said I thought I recognized the feeling: I was a history major myself, thanks, and I remember it as a form of high entertainment.
But here's the thing: hobby major? I can hear lib arts profs all over the profession sobbing into their chardonnay at an attitude that might seem so dismissive of their beloved core curriculum. And I feel their pain. Yes, I know all about the need to preserve and transmit the culture, and how the unexamined life is not worth living. Hey, look at me: I'm still in college because I never left. Hobby major? Boy, you sure know how to hurt a guy.
But you know the part that really hurts? What hurts is that this is not remotely the kind of guy who can be dismissed as a baboon. He's not one of those hunchbacked knuckle-dusters who drag themselves through Phil 1 with arrogant insults and vile body noises. He's smart, he's inquisitive, he's well traveled, he's involved in some public policy issues about which he cares very much and on which, I must say, he is far more knowledgeable than I.
And I think that in some sense he is even well-educated. He certainly seems to have enjoyed his hobby major. Yet the way I hear it, he thinks it cost him (time and money) and he counts it more as a large self-indulgence than an indispensable part of his life (my phrasing, I admit I may have misread him).
Hobby major? Ouch.