On a daily basis, I am asked what one can do with a B.A. in English. The question is so common (and loaded with emotive implications), that it provides the opening number for the hit Broadway musical “Avenue Q”. Outsiders often assume that the only avenue for an English student is to teach in the secondary school system. We see students in our offices, expressing a love foOn a daily basis, I am asked what one can do with a B.A. in English. The question is so common (and loaded with emotive implications), that it provides the opening number for the hit Broadway musical “Avenue Q”. Outsiders often assume that the only avenue for an English student is to teach in the secondary school system. We see students in our offices, expressing a love for literature and writing, but who have been dissuaded or even forbidden by their parents, who feel they should choosing something more “enterprising”. In “Why to Major in English If You’re Not Going to Teach”, Robert Prescott offers a convincing response to this perennial question. He cites the U.S. Bureau of Labor, who offer the following statistics: of degree holders in English, 42% work in private, for-profit companies, 14% own their own businesses, 10 % work for government agencies, and 7% work in the non-profit sector; 27% are in education, but many of those are not teaching; 17% have chosen not to work, and 3% are unable to find work (p. 8). Although most graduates find successful ventures outside of teaching, there is a clear perception that an English degree is frivolous, lacking practical value. Perhaps the primary cause is that most people—English faculty and students included—are not able to articulate how this tremendously useful skillset has applicability in other realms. Part of the issue is that the career trajectories of faculty are markedly different from most of their students. Prescott argues for a more practical application of the English skillset before students graduate: “When we look out on a classroom, we are only seeing our students for who they are in the moment, not for the successful working people they will someday be, and thus we are not helping them see how their work with us is tied to their future careers” (1). Prescott demonstrates the utility of the English skillset in a thorough examination, divided into three broad sections: The first explores the job market and the components of the skillset (critical thinking and open mindedness; oral communication; and interpersonal, writing, research and computer skills). Section II examines marketable skills gained through literary study, composition, creative writing, and a culmination of an internship. Section III bridges these skills to launching careers in the workforce, discussing important topics such as ‘targeted’ resumes, researching jobs and companies and properly aligning skills/education/experience with job descriptions. Prescott’s prose is well-organized and highly readable with practical links from academe to the working environment. He illustrates these connections through multiple case studies and modestly shares the hard work of others without patting himself on the back. The less grandiose stories about student success are particularly useful because they give students very tangible outcomes to which they can aspire. The book has small drawbacks. While showing clear successes at Liberal Arts institutions (Bradley, Hanover), the book needs stronger relevance to larger research institutions where one-on-one interactions among students and faculty are not as feasible. Secondly, at times, the author seems so focused on selling his argument that he goes overboard and compromises his credibility. For example, after selling (convincingly) why English majors make good insurance agents, financial advisors and realtors, he reports that they have significantly less success in sales. Rather than leaving that alone, Prescott indulges in unfounded speculation that puts him on the defense. Relatedly, Prescott often makes broad, sweeping generalizations about all English majors—“English majors want_____”—which effectively confines people into an English major allegiance, a rather artificial designation. Finally, the last chapter is a “Highly Incomplete English Major Hall of Fame” and is a somewhat tacky add-on. While it may have some use as an appendix for those interested enough, as the book’s final chapter, it is a relatively weak ending to an otherwise outstanding book.This book—suitable for anyone who advises in the Liberal arts—is a great resource to better equip advisors to suggest the many different directions our students can, and do, take. When they are convinced that their only options lie in teaching and law, we can remind students of the words of Antonio Machado: “Travelers, there is no path. Paths are made by walking” (quoted in Forward, p. xi)....
|Title||:||Why to Major in English if you're not Going to Teach|
|Number of Pages||:||490 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|