OPINIONS

The pressure to be happy and the crisis of the humanities, part II

This column is the second in a two-part series examining the connections between happiness, pressure and the study of the humanities at Stanford.

Last year, I found myself debating three of my friends, all some variation of techie-ness. “Humanities feed your soul,” I offered desperately. I criticized excessive time and money spent on research, since much of it is simply funneled into the vortex of academia, never to be seen again. My friend pointed out that research could cure cancer. I felt tempted to fire back that cancers are often traced to man-made chemicals, more often that not produced in these very laboratories, and then launched into a tirade about the ghastly ways in which technology has compromised meaningful human connection. This did not get me very far. “Well,” I offered, stomaching my lack of conviction, “In grief, what do you turn to? Science may explain death, but it does not heal grief. A poem can make you feel better.” This was met with blank stares, so I quickly amended it: “A song can make you feel better.”

I left the room, disappointed that I had only managed to half-heartedly convince them (and even that wasn’t such a sure point, for maybe they had just taken pity on the dying pit bull). If anything, I had become less convinced myself. I hadn’t been able to prove the worth of the humanities; I hadn’t even addressed what makes writing a novel as equally important to civilization as designing a wind turbine. A song can make you feel better. Was this paltry line my best argument?

In Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life,” he advises his friend Paulinus, “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” To imbue our lives with wisdom and clarity, look no further “high priests of liberal studies,” the philosophers who have taken to task hard questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” Seneca writes: “By the toil of others we are let into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light… None of these will be too busy to see you, none of these will not send his visitor away happier and more devoted to himself, none of these will allow anyone to depart empty-handed. They are at home to all mortals by night and by day.” For now, I like to think, a good book will suffice.

I do need to make one important clarification: lest this argument be mistaken for a critique of the sciences and a manifesto declaring that all students should be classics and English majors, I should say the problem here is not biology or computer science or mechanical engineering. There are plenty of devoutly passionate students who study the sciences (and can understand them, God bless you), who want to push the fold of human knowledge further, who dream of changing the world for the better. This is as noble a cause as any.

No, the problem is the never-ending career fairs, the looming recruitment rounds, the pressure felt by so many here to not just secure a job, but a damn good one, one with the kind of clout and money-earning potential to make the university proud. I wonder: how many graduates become elementary school teachers who arguably have an impact unparalleled by other professions? What is that number compared to the number of students who enter consulting or marketing, neither of which they likely knew about in high school and, I suspect, aren’t terribly passionate about even as they go down that route? The curiosity students have nourished since childhood is squandered in professions whose focus is, in the ultimate end, to make money.

Choosing this path is not unreasonable. Job security is frightful right now, and many take these positions knowing it’ll help them land better ones they actually like doing.

But I fear too many students are getting sucked, irreversibly, into a vacuum wherein profit is an impostor for purpose and competition a means of lifestyle. The worst part is that the university, with its eagerness to bring recruiters and its more-than-friendly, deeply biased relationship with Silicon Valley, promotes these kinds of jobs. I went to a job fair at White Plaza once. I passed booths touting careers I had never heard of, firms with sterile names. It was all very intimidating, so I beelined for the Walt Disney booth, hoping to find their information about being a story-boarder or an artist. Standing behind a girl dressed in business slacks, I scanned the poster. Disney was here to recruit future marketers, legal team members, potential executives. My grin faded.

Stanford’s approach to career-building is very one-sided. Where was the creative contingent among all these employers? Where were the architects, where was National Geographic, The New York Times? Perhaps companies like these don’t pluck smart college students like consulting firms do, but with Stanford’s resources, is it out of their power to bring them to campus for at least an information session? Why are the heroes, touted by Stanford’s press, the people who have made the most money and won the most medals? What about the activists, the teachers? Why do I not hear about achievement outside of the context of winning and prestige? A liberal arts education is not a trade school to be wealthy or “successful.” The reason we come to college is to challenge our minds, become better thinkers, better human beings, armed with knowledge of life’s truths and conviction in who were are to venture into the real world and face its inevitable hardships.

I urge the university to take a look at how its utopian-like pressure to be happy and its biased emphasis on “profitable” jobs actually undermines students’ ultimate happiness. In fact, these misguided priorities get in the way of letting students do what they are meant to do in college: wade into the self-discovery that arcs across our maddening existences. At its purest, education isn’t about providing us with answers, as the promise of a lucrative job might lead one to believe. As educator Mark Lilla put it, speaking to a group of freshmen: “The real reason you were excited about college was because you had questions, buckets of questions, not life plans and PowerPoint presentations. My students convinced me that they are far less interested in getting what they want than in figuring out just what it is that’s worth wanting.”

Alex would love to hear about your experiences with the humanities. Email her at abayer@stanford.edu.

  • pol_incorrect

    Let’s be clear. Majoring in the humanities at Stanford or elsewhere is a complete waste of time. At Stanford it’s, in addition, an EXPENSIVE waste of time. I think that Stanford should shutdown all of its humanities departments because they don’t bring anything positive to the university. They only bring the occasional controversy of some gay/female/black humanities professor doing something stupid for the sake of gaining attention. Stanford’s prestige is built on its scientific and engineering departments/schools. Even the schools of medicine, business and law were built on that success. The “humanities” part of the school of humanities and sciences should be shutdown and its professors (including the provost) fired.

  • Anon

    @pol_incorrect:disqus : UGH! I hope you were trolling.
    Author: This is a great article on a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently and am happy to see in writing. Please, please, get a few more people to embrace the mystery of human existence and the pursuit of meaningful intellectual knowledge.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMGunn Peter McDonald

    You really have to be the most unhappy person to ever have existed. What made you so hateful? Why do you spend all your time trolling the Stanford Daily comment section? I’m sure the weather is beautiful wherever you are. Why not just get a punching bag to take out your frustrations?

  • pol_incorrect sucks

    yeah, you suck

  • pol_incorrect

    WOW, how smart, an ad hominem attack. This is the best your typical humanities major at Stanford can produce: dogmatically repeating liberal talking points or insulting. In fact the latter is a subset of the former. As I said, a complete waste of time. This reminds me of something I heard a few years ago from a very high ranking Stanford official at an informal meeting. Some engineering student complained that PhD students in the humanities had their funding guaranteed for a number of years at admission time while the same was not the case in engineering -the reason being that the humanities are primarily funded from the Stanford general fund while engineering is funded primarily via sponsored research. This official’s answer summarized it all. The person said something along the lines, “don’t worry, that’s just so they have a nice graduate experience, after that they will be poor for the rest of their lives but you’ll do very well”. So there you go.

  • 2013

    Somebody chooses a major without any consideration to life after graduation? Ok then… when you get to your senior year, don’t spend the school year bothering your peers (who actually have thought about it) with your complaints about how you can’t get any interviews or your inability to find something to do after graduation.

  • pol_incorrect

    I was not. What I state here are my true feelings about the humanities. I second what 2013 had to say.

  • JB

    To all humanities majors: You chose your box, now go live in it after graduation. The most prominent leaders of the top companies that Stanford is known for producing didn’t get there by being forced to read the outdated ramblings of irrelevant philosophers.

  • pol_incorrect

    Exactly, be them those from the old school (Bill Hewett, Dave Packard or the Varian brothers) or those from more recent times (the Jerry Yang, David Filo, Larry Page or Sergey Brin), it’s the engineers/scientists that have given Stanford its fortune and reputation. The only thing that the humanities professors bring to campus is controversy and attempts to make life difficult for everybody else. It must come with the territory, they try to socialize their frustration that they have chosen a useless field to work in their lives so they must see it as an obligation to make everybody else’s life as miserable as their own.

  • Stanfordmom

    Alex, I loved your article and totally disagree with most of the comments here. To be a truly great University (not just a technical college) Stanford should maintain a vibrant School of Humanities. As an older alum I can tell you money does not buy happiness, nor does a purely technical education help answer many of the questions that keep we humans awake at night, about the meaning of life, our purpose here, or how to build communities. I majored in Economics and became a management consultant after graduating. Now I’m advising my own children to follow their hearts, do what they love, and try to work to make the world a better place, not to work just to enrich themselves and a few others, especially at the expense of the earth we all have to live on. Stanford is a great place, because it combines a rich scientific and humanistic education.

  • ’12’15

    A few things. You reduce everyone’s IQ when you sink to such levels as “insulting” is a subset of “liberal talking points.” If you are not going to treat this forum as a level of concerted discourse, then you owe it to all of us to not be hypocritical and engage in the type of juvenile bantering that you are accusing others of engaging in. Second, if you are going to ‘quote’ a ‘high-ranking Stanford official,’ it would help to give us their (1) name, (2) position, (3) department, or (4) context. Otherwise, we have no way of verifying your argument. It is nothing more than blatant hearsay. Next, I hardly think that Stanford humanities PhDs are going to be “poor for the rest of their lives.” There is no data to back that up. Stanford humanities PhD graduates are entirely happy and fulfilled people who do very well getting hired by universities, businesses, consultants, etc. Their salaries are quite good, and they are advancing a canon of academia that has existed for multiple millennia.

  • ’12’15

    First, you cannot follow “let’s be clear” with a highly controversial and divisive statement. Next, you never give us any support for your assertion that “majoring in the humanities at Stanford… is a complete waste of time.” Stanford’s prestige was not built on its scientific and engineering departments. In fact, much of our early recognition stemmed from our excellence in the humanities. Just ask David Starr Jordan, John Steinbeck, and our litany of advancements in history and political science. Our engineering and science advancements did not develop until the past few decades. And you cannot fire the provost without cause, and you clearly have not demonstrated cause. And your attacks on minorities is, quite frankly, just blatant bigotry. Don’t pull the ad hominem card on me either. You cannot make racist/sexist/homophobic statements and then get angry when anyone calls you what you are.

  • ’12’15

    This comment section is frankly disgusting. Both the sciences and the humanities are fundamental to human flourishing, happiness, and a functioning university. Scientists must be able to express their thoughts in presentations, to write clearly and concisely, to understand the ethics of their actions, to navigate the laws regarding their area of study, to market their research on an open capitalist market, and to understand what human beings truly need through sociological and anthropological research. The sciences without the humanities is an empty exercise, a fantastic ship hurtling through the high seas without direction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mercylee Mercy Bell

    Confused by some of these comments….

    i.e. “Stanford’s successful Engineering alums are proof that the Humanities aren’t necessary”

    Seriously?

    How can you not attribute humanistic vision and critical analysis to those long-lasting empires in tech that give Stanford its global reputation? Hate philosophy? Google coined what may be the single most philosophical phrase of all time : “Don’t be Evil.”

    The relationship between literary analysis, communication skills and technical skill is NOT part of a “liberal agenda”. It’s good business sense. And, not to mention, great citizen sense. Would you really denounce a society with more individuals who can assess situations from multiple perspectives, debate effectively and more efficiently and succesfully pursue technical projects?

    I know Humanities classes don’t ever offer the same feeling of successful completion that many Engineering classes do. But the skill-set to handle this uncomfortable reality of fluid opinion/gray areas in the Real World more capably and efficiently WILL serve you well.

    Take it from a ex-Googler fuzzy who still works in Tech.

  • pol_incorrect

    First, I am not saying who the person is. It happened a few years ago in an informal setting and it’s basically true. There is plenty of data to back it up. Here is the most recent data with the salaries of the Stanford Faculty for example http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/may20/files/faculty_salary_2009.pdf . Two things. First, even there, Stanford pays more to its professors working outside the humanities. In the case of the business, law and medical schools, significantly more. Second, for a PhD humanities graduate, about his/her only chance to make a decent living is to become a professor at one of the few top private schools in the US. Even the UCs, despite their undisputed quality, pay significantly less. The reality of the vast majority of these graduates (even Stanford graduates): a part time job as a lecturer making poverty level wages. For the graduates in the hard sciences, engineering, business, law or medicine, academia is probably the least attractive of careers from a pure economic point of view (its only positive point is job security but for the type of ambitious and risk taking people that graduate from these places at Stanford that’s not a problem). I am not saying it’s easy to become tenured -in fact, it’s very hard- but we certainly have other options unlike your average humanities graduate.

  • pol_incorrect

    Whatever. It is widely accepted that Stanford’s jump from a fine regional institution to a world class university happened under the tenure of Frederick Terman as provost with his “steeples of excellence” philosophy http://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/november3/Terman-1103.html . Added to that was Terman’s vision for a collaboration industry/Stanford. SLAC followed. And with that, the Nobel Prizes and other awards. In fact, Stanford itself boasts the quality of its faculty by underscoring mostly its awards on the sciences http://facts.stanford.edu/faculty.html . You could remove every single one of those awards given to a humanities faculty member and Stanford’s prestige would be intact. Conversely, you could remove all the awards given to faculties in the sciences, engineering, medicine or economics and Stanford would have no reputation whatsoever. That’s the reality. I don’t know the provost, all I am saying is that he is the poster examples of the empty humanities faculty who has nothing to show but a thin resume. Comparing Hennessy’s and Etchemendy’s resumes is like day and night. Stanford would be perfectly fine if Etchemendy were to be fired (and if Stanford were to fire all faculty members with a similar profile). It would screwed if it were to fire Hennessy and all the other engineering faculty members with a similar profile. That’s the ugly truth. If you can’t face it, don’t read my comments.

  • pol_incorrect

    I think you are making a great case for religion and against atheism. Not sure what you say has to do with the topic at hand.

  • pol_incorrect

    Surely you’d love to apply the same type of censorship that normally happens in your average Stanford humanities class. Alas, you might not like it but freedom of speech is one of the pillars, probably the most important pillar, of our democracy.

  • Stanfordmom

    Well studying religion would be part of Humanities now wouldn’t it. And I am actually an agnostic. Do you know what that means?

  • pol_incorrect

    I was an agnostic myself for a long time before returning to the Christian faith of my childhood. I have never looked back. And I thank God everyday for having rescued me from the lie of agnosticism and atheism. But I digress.

    I don’t think that the issues you raise is what humanities are all about these days (and that’s why they have such a bad reputation). Almost 20 years ago there was a chance to test the type of nonsense that is being taught at the humanities at top schools like Stanford. It was the so called “Sokal affair”. You can read the details here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair . Now, imagine paying 50K+ a year to have an undergrad education at Stanford (tuition + living expenses) and it becomes harder and harder to justify having these lunatics (the humanities professors) on the payroll.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMGunn Peter McDonald

    Dude it’s not even an attack. I’m just straight curious as to why you seemingly spend all of your free time trolling the comment section of a student newspaper when you’re what, over 30? What do you hope to accomplish? Is there really nothing else to do in your life? I just don’t get why anyone willfully makes themselves so angry all the time.

  • pol_incorrect

    Dude!!! Because I majored on something more useful than your idiotic major, I lead a very comfortable life. A life you won’t get even in your wildest dreams. You can keep you ad hominem red herrings, typical of the best liberal tradition, but here is the fact for you. You might start accepting the fact that you are going to be economically disadvantaged for the rest of your life. That my friend is YOUR UGLY TRUTH.

  • Way to go Alex!

    I definitely think that Stanford and its students would do itself a great disservice by ignoring the humanities.

    And yet, I honestly think most of the humanities departments could be done away with. Return to the pillars of the liberal arts tradition: philosophy, math, Latin/Greek, history, and perhaps a few other smatterings. Intensify the strength of the humanities, don’t dilute it with programs that have 2-4 majors per year, if that. What a waste of money and talent.

    Not to mention that many of the departments are steeped in intellectual dishonesty. CSRE, for instance, brainwashes students into thinking that only whites can be racist. A downright shame.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMGunn Peter McDonald

    Your life clearly isn’t that comfortable if you spend all your time spewing rage in the comment section of a student newspaper.

  • pol_incorrect

    Blah, blah, blah. I don’t know what’s with you liberals, your magical thinking and self delusion but it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat your red herring, it will not become more relevant. You still have to address the points I and others have raised here. You know, you cannot be Peter Pan forever. At some point you’ll grow up and realize that you’ve been told a bunch of lies by your liberal humanities professors at Stanford. Perhaps then you’ll remember the wise words of this dude.

  • Alum4

    Interesting article. As a Stanford alum, all I’ll say is one of the most unique things about the campus that sticks to me until today is fact that there are such amazing minds in *all* disciplines (everything from humanities to sciences to business to law to engineering to education) all in one place. The power of interdisciplinary thinking at Stanford is enormous. Imagine the things that can be created and innovated if more humanities majors put their minds together with engineers and doctors. Or if more scientists worked with business students to take their ideas to market. Or if we stopped distinguishing people from left-brained and right-brained and instead focused on how we bring those minds together in a collaborative team. Forget the naysayers. Every department and school of the Stanford campus (yes, including the humanities) is integral to the innovation and academic strength that the university thrives on.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMGunn Peter McDonald

    To call it a red herring is to assume that I’m engaging with your argument, which I’m not. I’m just asking you a question. It must be a real drag to go through all of life in fight-or-flight mode.

  • pol_incorrect

    It’s a red herring and it’s the preferred line of defense of nonsensical liberals when they come short on the substance department. And you are not even original. Accusing somebody you disagree with of spending too much time doing this or that is as old as the internet. You are all so predictable. To summarize, majoring in the humanities is a complete waste of time. Majoring in the humanities at Stanford is an EXPENSIVE waste of time. You guys shouldn’t complain that after graduation life is tough. You got what you bargained for, nothing more, nothing less.

  • this is nonsense

    Let me make something clear for you, @pol_incorrect. Your views are neither original nor particularly provocative, though I suspect you’ve taken the mantle of “politically incorrect” because you think they are. The reason other commentors call you a troll is not because they can’t handle an opposing viewpoint, but rather because you use inappropriate and disturbingly ugly language to put forth your views. Let me give you some recent examples.

    Responding to an article about a hit-and-run cyclist-cyclist collision, you wrote: “I feel no pity for either side. The best that could come up out of this is that the hospitalized student dies and that the hit and run felon is later caught and sent to jail for the rest of his life.” I know I don’t have to explain to other readers what is wrong with your comment, but I’ll explain it to you because I think you don’t know: It is not an informed opinion to write that you want someone else to die. Is that clear? It’s just ugly.

    This example was not just a misfire on your part. In a comment on a later article about bicyclists, you returned to this theme, writing: “I think that unless the injured student died and the guy sought after for the “hit and run” ended being convicted and spending a great deal of time in jail nothing would change. And nothing will unless Stanford has its own Newtown tragedy caused by crazy bikers.” This is just sick.

    Fine, you’re against cyclists. Whatever. You’re not the first. I’d have no problem having a debate about bicycling vs automobiles. We could discuss CA annual automobile collision statistics, expected collision rates in a bicycle population the size of Stanford’s, etc. But you don’t want to debate. You want to make ugly comments. That makes you a troll.

    In this article, the thing other commentors find so ugly is this: “They only bring the occasional controversy of some gay/female/black humanities professor doing something stupid for the sake of gaining attention.” This is a bigoted statement. Look up the word “bigot” and you’ll see what I mean. Bigotry is not an intellectually valid platform for debate. If your comment were removed because it’s inappropriate, it wouldn’t be because you had voiced a minority viewpoint that is being suppressed by the liberal tyranny. It would be because your comment is bigoted.

    Now, I bet you’re tempted to respond with something about how I’m using an “ad hominem attack” rather than debating you on substance. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not willing to debate with a person who uses such ugly language. I either ignore you, or I try to make you see what is so obvious to everyone else. But you don’t deserve to be debated.

  • pol_incorrect

    I am afraid that they, just as you cannot handle the truth. I love this preemptive surrender,

    “Here’s the thing, though. I’m not willing to debate with a person who
    uses such ugly language. I either ignore you, or I try to make you see
    what is so obvious to everyone else. But you don’t deserve to be
    debated.”

    Let me help you on this. My comments about crazy bicyclists at Stanford are more than justified. Not only by the 4 issues the Daily op-ed writer reported, which are common place on campus, but because a study performed a few years ago on accidents in California involving a cyclist, the cyclist was to blame in something like 60-70% of cases. I don’t remember the year of the study or the actual percentage but I am sure you can Google it (I am not going to do the homework for you).

    On my characterization of what the humanities faculty brings to campus, you might not like that description but nobody said that the truth had to be pretty. That’s the reality. Just as the reality is that these humanity professors see themselves, for the most part, as professional intoxicators whose primary job is to brainwash as many young impressionable Stanford students as they can. The engineering/science professors teach you about science and technology (both of which are ideology agnostic). The law professors teach you about the practice of law. Same with business and medicine professors. Humanities professors just teach complete and useless nonsense. I said somewhere else that they should all be fired and that Stanford would find better use for the money it spends breeding these America haters. I mean it. And I also said that the prestige of Stanford its built on its achievements in the scientific and technology fields (medicine included), and that’s the reality Stanford itself markets. We could get all this parasite humanities professors to create their own college/university. They wouldn’t get very far. Probably this hypothetical college would close its doors in a few years. You could do the same with the science, engineering, medical, law and business professors and the new college would go to the top of rankings in a minute. That’s how brutal the difference is. You don’t like this reality? Your problem, not mine.

  • pol_incorrect

    Example of idiotic Stanford humanities professors whose only claim to fame is the controversy they create,

    http://art.stanford.edu/profile/Enrique+Chagoya/

    http://news.stanford.edu/pr/01/sexdiversity41017.html

    There is more but again, I am not going to do your homework. The universities that focus primarily on science and technology (MIT or Caltech) do not bring that type of nonsense to campus. They bring scholar and interesting debates about topics such as what’s the best estimate for the Hubble constant (and by way of that, the age of the universe). Stanford’s claim to fame happened IN SPITE of these useless humanities professors, NOT BECAUSE of them.

  • pol_incorrect

    http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2011/02/a_terrible_time_for_new_phds.html

    “According to a July 2010 report
    from the Council of Graduate Schools analyzing SED data, 64 percent of
    recipients of brand-new doctorates in the humanities (nearly 5,000 of
    them in 2009) said they had definite commitments for jobs or
    postdoctoral study, with 86 percent of them saying those commitments
    were for positions in academia. The problem? Nearly all those job offers
    were for part-time, no-benefits work as adjunct professors where the
    pay rate can be as little as $2,000 per semester-long course, the
    “peanuts” that the underemployed anthropology Ph.D. complained about in
    her letter to Salon.”

  • Karel

    2 Chainz for President!

  • pol_incorrect

    “Bigotry is not an intellectually valid platform for debate. If your
    comment were removed because it’s inappropriate, it wouldn’t be because
    you had voiced a minority viewpoint that is being suppressed by the
    liberal tyranny. It would be because your comment is bigoted.”

    The problem is that in the liberal worldview, everything that does not conform to its orthodoxy is, by definition, both bigoted and evil. So yeah, I am voicing a minority viewpoint. It’s just that your totalitarian mind calls this viewpoint bigoted.

  • Go to fewer GSC meetings.

    I know who you are.

  • 2012

    Not really expensive when you factor in that beautiful thing called Stanford’s financial aid policy. #ThankGod

  • you’re terrible

    From that second link:

    What don’t we know about diversity of sexuality and gender? A lot, says biologist and committee member Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies: “Our knowledge is still fragmentary; we are only beginning to sort out the genetic and cultural factors that contribute to gender, and to deal with the social issues raised by gender diversity.”

    Is biology now part of the humanities?

  • you’re still terrible

    The Sokal affair has almost entirely been discredited. Just read the goddamn links that you post.

    Also, please google Bogdanov Affair and SCIGen. There is bad research everywhere–not just academia, and not just the humanities.

  • Julia

    You can keep your money. I will keep my desire to influence the way we look at social services and immigration; I will keep my love of knowledge for the enlightenment’s sake, not cash; I will keep my sense of wonder and love for beauty. You can keep your rage, and your hate, and your ridiculous dismissal of disciplines that have fed the sharpest minds of humanity for hundreds of years. Keep it, please, because I don’t want it.

  • ohleven

    awesome article. really hit home.

  • Annie ’06

    I read the earlier comments after reading the comment saying many of the earlier comments were disgusting. I totally agree many of those earlier comments were disgusting. I hope the people who think the humanities are useless are not Stanford affiliated, because I would be pretty shocked (though not totally susprised) that such mindless people are part of the Stanford community.

    I took five or six AP classes in high school, four or five of which were science classes, got 5’s on all the science AP tests I took, got an 800 on my SAT math, and (later) and 800 on my GRE math, started at Stanford as a physics major, took the honors freshman physics series and got all A’s (maybe an A-), and then decided to switch to earth systems bc I couldn’t see how majoring in physics would allow me to directly benefit society. Later, I went into journalism. Then I went into activism. I totally could have become a scientist or engineer or doctor if I had wanted to, as I had the abilities. I’m not even sure why I’m getting into this. I would choose living in a box over being a mindless, soulless tool anyday. However, it’s unfortunate our society, as it is set up, sometimes forces that choice.

    There are a lot of ignorant people in the world, who spend very little time critically examining the world, and whose sole goal is to “get a well-paying job” and be “comfortable” and whatever. Probably… a lot of those people were “comfortable” to begin with. Maybe they’re happy later, or maybe not.

    Anyway, believe in your convictions, and although it sucks to have to deal with ignorant people, try not to let the ignorant people get in your way too much! Oh yeah, but if they enforce structural injustices and stuff, it can be a very good thing to fight them/if if you are able to and choose to.

    Thank you for writing.

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