This hashtag has been trending among my psychology friends, and I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post about it. #ThisPsychMajor stems from some recent comments made by Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush:
“Universities ought to have skin in the game,” former Florida governor and current presidential candidate Jeb Bush said at a South Carolina town hall meeting Saturday morning, “When a student shows up, they ought to say ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A.’”
“The number one degree program for students in this country … is psychology,” Bush said. “I don’t think we should dictate majors. But I just don’t think people are getting jobs as psych majors. We have huge shortages of electricians, welders, plumbers, information technologists, teachers.”
Now, I don’t need Jeb Bush to validate my career decisions. Still, he is wrong on a bunch of levels. I’ll leave it to this article to discuss the specific points, such as the popularity of psych majors and the careers of psych graduates (spoiler alert: a lot of us actually use our degree in a psych-related field). And honestly, among the many, many crazy and offensive comments made by Republicans running for president in 2016, this comment is tame by comparison. Still, the #thispsychmajor response has been awesome, which was inspired by this video.
I do think there are a other things worth pointing out as a foundation for these not-so-eloquent comments.
Picking on Psych: Psychology is an easy target. It is a popular major, and people do have a variety of reasons why they choose this major (with an incorrect cliche that people just want to “find themselves”). Psychology is a rigorous science, but there are many people like Jeb Bush who view it as a fluffy liberal arts degree or maybe begrudgingly call it a “soft science.” An implicit recognition of this view is that many universities give out Bachelors of Arts to psychology majors, not Bachelors in Science. While there are some trends to the contrary, I still think many people consider outdated concepts as the key things we learn in our degree (e.g., Freudian theory) rather than recognize the research methods and statistical work we do. Other people may not realize how psychology majors can be applied to so many different fields and jobs. I bet there is a good chance that Jeb Bush has a few psych majors working on his campaign…perhaps someone who is giving him feedback on debate prep or someone who is running stats on his campaign?
A Degree vs. A Career: Now, I think Jeb Bush was trying to make this point (poorly), but it is an issue that isn’t unique to psychology majors. There are some students who pick majors without necessarily considering their career options after graduation. For me, I knew from Day 1 that I wanted to major in psychology, and I also knew that I would need to go to graduate school for the career I wanted. I know that I’m the exception and not the rule. Some students consider these options quite late when the reality of graduation is upon them. Other students may just want a flexible degree because they don’t necessarily know what they want to do after graduation. I do think students should seriously consider why they are picking certain majors before they accumulate student debt (this idea applies for graduate school, too). But assuming that all of us don’t plan ahead or work hard to get into graduate school is absurd. Also, you cannot claim that certain degrees are more valuable than others, especially when the skills gained in that degree can be applied to so many different jobs. This idea goes for people majoring in psychology, philosophy, art history…or Jeb Bush’s B.A. degree in Latin American studies (which he used to work at an entry-level job at a bank after graduation, apparently).
Assuming Minimum Wage = Failure: One final point is the incorrect notion that working at Chick-fil-A means you are a failure if you are someone with a college degree. I think this view is totally a reflection of an over-simplistic and elitist perspective by the former governor. Many students with student loans can’t rely on family friends or family money after graduation, so they may have to work in a service industry job to make ends meet, to save money before graduate school, or a whole host of other reasons. They may work at these jobs just have a job, period. Many people in my generation graduated into a terrible job market, so any job is a job. Making assumptions and shaming people for the reasons why they work minimum wage or service industry jobs ventures into dangerous territory in my book.
Anyways, I think I’ve spent far too much time dwelling on these ridiculous comments. Moral of this story: Be wary of pissing off psych majors. We are everywhere. 🙂