Why Study English?
Do You Want Fries with That?
An Essay by Professor Emeritus Dr. Stanley Hauer
Yes, we’ve heard them all before, all the old jokes about being an English major. But even funnier than the jokes is that they’re not true.
English is one of the fundamental majors in any university. It is a field of study that gives you a multiplicity--an almost unbounded breadth--of career choices. A better question might be:
What can you not do with an English major?
Consider this very selective list of English majors in the public eye today:
- Alan Alda: actor, writer
- Russell Baker: journalist
- Dave Barry: humorist writer, actor
- Linda Bloodworth Thomason: television writer/producer (Designing Women)
- Carol Browner: head of Environmental Protection Agency
- Chevy Chase: comedian, actor
- Mario Cuomo: former governor of New York
- Michael Eisner: Walt Disney CEO
- Jodi Foster: actress, filmmaker
- Kathryn Fuller: World Wildlife Fund CEO
- A. Bartlett Giamatti: Yale University president, Commisioner of Baseball
- Chris Isaak: songwriter, singer
- Garrison Keillor: radio personality
- Stephen King: novelist
- Paul Newman: actor, food entrepreneur
- Sally Ride: astronaut
- Joan Rivers: comedian
- Diane Sawyer: broadcast journalist
- Paul Simon: songwriter, singer
- Steven Spielberg: filmmaker
- Marty Schottenheimer: coach of Kansas City Chiefs
- Sigourney Weaver: actress
- Superman (the late, great Christopher Reeve): journalist, superhero
- Brandon Tartikoff: television executive
- Clarence Thomas: U.S. Supreme Court Justice
- Grant Tinker: TV executive and producer
- Barbara Walters: broadcast journalist
- Harold Varmus: Nobel Laureate in medicine, Director of National Institutes of Health
- Pete Wilson: former Governor of California
- Bob Woodward: journalist, writer
That’s a pretty heady crowd by any standard. So once again, we ask: what can you do with an English major?