​DOWNER: We need negative majors

When in doubt, rule majors out

Choosing majors can be a source of great difficulty and stress. Some people like too many different subjects, while others can’t seem to find something they are passionate about. However, everyone has one thing in common: they know what subjects they don’t like. It is too much to expect students to know what they like. Students should be given the option of majoring against a subject. A negative major would allow students to more clearly pursue their studies without any of the confusion and stress of a traditional major.

Entering college my first year I was overwhelmed. I went from having maybe one elective in high school to being able to choose none in the E-School! There was a strange man who slept across the room from me, periodically eating my Doritos. Collars started to appear on my shirts and every time I stepped outside, Frisbees would start flying at my face. Needless to say, it was a stressful time. By far the worst part of it was how everyone would ask for my major. Every time I met someone the question inevitably came up. No one seemed to care to ask about my collection of action figures or my extensive knowledge of Nicolas Cage movies. My major is what mattered to everyone. But I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, I had just gotten here.

That was when I figured out the solution to my major problem. I started to tell people I was a “not-English” major. I had always hated words and I entered college determined to not write a single page more. I wanted to do something more practical with my time at the University, like philosophy or anthropology. I happily signed up for my classes first semester without a word in sight. It was so freeing not to take classes you dislike.

From this anecdote it should already be clear how advantageous a negative major can be. However, I have to write 400 more words so I shall go on. A negative major takes off a great deal of stress on students by removing requirements, rather than adding to them like traditional majors. A traditional major might ask students to take 40 or more credits in a defined set of courses. Inevitably, some of those courses are going to be difficult (another glaring problem that needs to be addressed on Grounds). A negative major wouldn’t force students to take classes in narrow areas, it would only tell students what few areas they could not take courses. There’s a synergy to it as well, since a student wouldn’t have taken any classes in that department anyway. This way students would have a greater choice of easy classes to take, leaving time for important competitions of trivia and marathons of Netflix.

Negative majors would also allow people to study what they really care about. What people like is always changing. It wasn’t so long ago that Justin Bieber was a superstar and now look at him, life in shambles as he tries to spend his millions of dollars. This “Bieber Effect” leads people to slowly get disillusioned with their own majors. Creating negative majors would nullify the “Bieber Effect” because people know what they hate. No one has ever regretted not eating dirt, because dirt tastes horrible. The same is true for majors (except for a Culinary major I suppose). What people really care about is not doing what they don’t want to do, and negative majors would allow anyone not to do what they don’t want to do.

Higher education has become extremely stagnant over the past 50 years. Students are bored having to choose from the same majors that their dad or brother did. “Where’s the innovation, where’s the distinctiveness?” many of them think. The University’s position as an extremely progressive school makes it the perfect place to start the practice of negative majors. This innovation will reinvigorate students’ love of learning and possibly even lead someone to cure cancer. Demand negative majors from the administration, demand a new age of learning.

Bobby Downer is a second-year College student majoring in nothing.

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