The Search For America's Next Great Humanities Major.

I just graduated from college, which is a Big Life Milestone for anyone. My personal collegiate journey has been a decade-plus death march of such epic, meandering proportions that it should be written in middle English. I’ve also been holding down a full time job (not a career, but kind of career-ish) for several years, and have already had time to be roped in by those adults-only luxuries like "health insurance" and "money."

Most, however, are not like me. Most college graduates are in their early twenties, still wide-eyed and idealistic enough to believe that their thoughts and opinions mean half a shit to anyone (spoiler alert: they don’t). Yes, with their heads full of thoughts and their shoes full of feet they set out into the world ready to tackle those shiny, made-up jobs that look so super awesome when the people on TV are doing them. Like a "fashion consultant" or a "food blogger." The smartest among them had the foresight to get degrees that explain what sort of job the recipient is supposed to pursue. Nurses nurse. Teachers teach. Engineers engine.

And then there are the humanities majors.

Ah, liberal arts. For when college sounds great, but job prospects sound ehhh. Though they may seem more shaggy and less focused than their business and economics bretheren, those History/English/Philosophy/Religious Studies/Women’s Studies/Undecided majors play an important role in the college eco-system. A role far greater than just "holding lots of weed."

(Full disclosure: I haven’t lived in a dorm room for 10 years, and I went to a women’s college. But I assume the average female college student’s life still involves "lots of weed." And probably LOLcats. I assume the average male college student’s life involves "lots of weed. Then watching Tosh.0. Then punching each other in the dong. Then kissing passionately for three minutes. Then taking a long weekend to go home and speak to their family pastor.)

For it is they who wrote that paper about "Heart of Darkness" that they are now willing to sell to you for $20. It is they who are there to explain what the fuck Foucault was talking about. It is they who support you when you decide to tell your parents that instead of med school you’re going to be an urban farmer. They are the signifier and the signified. The very fabric that holds a university together.

But when the fog lifts and they stumble out into the world, degree in hand, these same humanities majors reach a distressing conclusion: No one gives a fuck about Chaucer. You are under qualified for the jobs you want, and over qualified for those that will have you. A bachelor’s degree with no job history is the equivalent of marching into an employer’s office, holding up four fingers, yelling, "I’M THIS MANY" and then wetting your pants. Lloyd Dobler had it all wrong, and that asshole probably blew out his knee kickboxing and wound up repairing video poker machines.

Some recoil at this realization, rushing back to the warm embrace of the beast that spawned them, ready to take another long painful suck of her cracked, red teat. They are called, "grad students." For the rest, only one option remains:

Reality TV.

Everyone knows that in today’s modern world reality television is the greatest job prospect for those of us who have no skills or inclination towards hard work. And though I’ve yet to find a producer willing to take a chance on a can’t miss show all about my life (in which a camera crew follows me around while I eat sushi and watch Downton Abbey in my pajamas. Working title: Occasional Boob Scratch), the least I can do is tithe my 2nd best idea to the Internet for the good of humanity.

The Setup

Reality shows break down into five basic categories:

  • People Of A Similar Skill Set Competing For Cash And Fleeting Fame
  • Celebrities, And The Things They Do
  • Hillbillies, And The Things They Do
  • Horrible Bitches
  • Look How Many Babies Just Fell Out Of My Vag. Seriously, So Many Babies.

For our purposes, let’s stick to the first one. The Search for America’s Next Great Humanities Major will be a head-to-head competition among 10 unemployable losers with an over-inflated sense of entitlement. Well, 5-10, depending on how many can scrape together the gas money and/or don’t already have tickets to see Phish at the Gorge in July.

In the Tim Gunn mentor role will be David Sedaris. Fans of Sedaris’ work know that, prior to his extremely successful career as a playwright and essayist, he was basically just dicking around for like 20 years. This makes Sedaris uniquely qualified the guide each of the young hopefuls on their journey towards inexplicably pulling an awesome career out of their ass. However, in a SHOCKING TWIST, Sedaris will appear only in the first episode via Skype to tell the contestants that he lives in France and doesn’t need this shit. Contestants will be forced to meander through challenges without celebrity guidance. Judging panel will include Ira glass, Starburns from Community, a sentient IKEA couch, and an acute sense of ennui.

The Challenges

Episode One: Irony

Irony is the greatest weapon a humanities major wields. Convinced that the prowess of their education supersedes their lack of employment or discernable skill, irony is a brandished broadsword that says to the world, "I may be wearing a t-shirt with a wolf on it, but I’ve also read 1/3 of Finnegan’s Wake." In the challenge, contestants will be forced through an irony obstacle course. The course will consist of tasks such as "singing a Peter Cetera song at a karaoke bar," "eating the KFC double down," and "watching Glee." Contestants will be judged for their ability to look like they’re enjoying themselves will challenge gets $1,000 and a Forever Lazy™.

Episode Two: Self-Reliance

College students like to believe that they are adults. This is wrong. It is not until they’ve left their collegiate womb and received that first letter from Sallie Mae that shit truly gets real. Humanities majors find this transition especially jarring as, where a student of finance is learning the basics of running a household and growing their money, they are learning about Plato’s allegory of the cave. In the 2nd week challenge, contestants are given $200 and asked to spend an afternoon getting an oil change, having a coat dry-cleaned, and buying groceries for the week. Judging is based on how far the money can be stretched without using a lifeline (aka parent). One contestant will inevitably be eliminated by mistakenly going first to a Whole Foods and blowing their entire budget on organic yogurt and chia seeds. Another will choose to leave the competition when they realize that $200 buys a lot of Xbox Live. The winner will receive $1,000 and a Costco membership for life.

Episode Three: Disappointment

Most humanities majors are drawn to the liberal arts because they are unsure of their future goals and aspirations. After all, if they had a plan for the future they’d be preparing for it. Instead, the humanities major is set adrift on the Fun/Interesting Sea, convinced that one day their dingy will wash up on a beach where Classics Degree=Profit!

It is this same misguided conviction that their thoughts have value that attract so many humanities majors to that most base and modern bastion of vanity: blogging. In week three, contestants will be challenged with building and maintaining a successful blog, content of their choosing. Last contestant to write a post that begins with, "sorry it’s been so long since my last update" wins $1,000, losers are banished to the wastelands of Livejournal for all of eternity. Note: this challenge should take no more than two weeks to complete.

Episode Four: Humility

At this point in the competition, having realized that they have no skills or prospects, the contestants will be forced to get a job. In customer service. In a call center. This is the ultimate insult for the out of work humanities major as, though they believe themselves above most menial jobs, in this case they’re right. Contestants will be given approximately one day of training before taking phone calls from angry customers about a product they have never used and possibly don’t understand. Success in this challenge will be judged by the contestant’s ability to hear, "I’m sorry, are you new?" over and over without putting their fist through the fabric wall of their cubicle. No winners this week.

Episode Five: Finale

In the finale, the final two contestants are given their most difficult challenge yet: acting like normal, functioning human beings. Each contestant is interviewed by Forever Lazy™ CEO Ron Hildebrandt, who wishes to know what makes them uniquely qualified for a position as his executive assistant. The contestants read a James Patterson novel, and then have a perfectly civil discussion about it with a nice lady from down the hall. They watch NCIS with their parents, and they do not make fun. They listen to the radio. They share a lovely meal at Ruby Tuesday.

In the end, the winner is offered a $50,000 cash prize, or the Forever Lazy™ job, which starts at $65,000/yr plus benefits and a 401(k). They inevitably take the money, and use it to travel to Burning Man. Nothing is learned.

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