Degrees in the Liberal Arts: What Value Do They Have?

Earlier this week, an opinion column from the New York Times was floating around on my Facebook newsfeed.  In the column, the author makes a case for the humanities, specifically English majors.  She (at least I think she is a woman.  I’ve never heard the name Verlyn before) easily points out the benefit of an education in the humanities by stating, “What many undergraduates don’t know–and what many of their professors have been unable to to tell them–is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be.  That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.”

I have a degree in Sociology and Linguistics and a minor in English.  Technically sociology is a soft science, but it provides many of the benefits the author discusses in her article.  My husband is an Ancient Civilizations major.  Consequently, we both see the value of degrees in the humanities and liberal arts in general.  We both learned how to read well and think deeply through our studies.

However, we both realize that none of our majors and minors directly feed into a job.  My husband has often said, “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t decided to go to the seminary.”  When people ask me what sort of jobs sociology brings, I truthfully answer, “Grad school.”  Even the author of this article admits that, “Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs.”  Humanities and the liberal arts just don’t do this.

Take the education section of my resume for example.  This is what I see when submitting it:

my resume

This is what potential employers see when I submit my resume:

others resume

When employers only glance through resumes to narrow down the applications, it’s hard for degrees in the liberal arts to show their full potential.  Consequently, there is a strong incentive to get degrees in majors that lead to jobs or even skip the bachelor’s degree and go to a trade school.  Truth be told, if I were to do my education over again I would probably choose a major that provided more hard skills–or at least get my TESL certification.  While I enjoyed my studies in college and can often see the ways those classes shaped my thought process, it certainly hasn’t helped pay the bills.


Yes, this is me preparing to bludgeon someone with a book.

I don’t have an answer for our society’s education conundrum.  Perhaps it would be best to forget about educating students in the humanities.  After all, even if a college requires it as a gen. ed., students are prone to just complain about wasted time and money.  I’ve heard many(not all) engineering students claim that they should be exempt from classes like rhetoric and introductory literature classes because they have more important classes to take.  With an attitude like that, they won’t get anything out of the class.  You can lead a horse to water. . .

Perhaps it would be better to educate employers about the advantage a degree in the humanities provides.  Maybe it would work to encourage college students to pursue two degrees:  one to provide the hard skills to catch employers’ eyes and one to provide the soft skills that will eventually be valued.

Or maybe the answer doesn’t lie in degrees and employment at all.  The best solution may be to raise children to appreciate and love the humanities so that they are inclined to learn on their own well after they are through school.



This is my brain normally:

normal functionI can’t say it’s usually operating smoothly (hence the smoke), but it runs well enough for me to focus and get things done.

This is my brain this week:

brain on fireBetween helping my husband get ready to leave for the National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, making preparations to visit my parents next week, realizing that we’ll have 2.5 weeks until we move when I get back from said visit, and still not knowing my work schedule for this week, my brain is malfunctioning and I’m having problems focusing.

And that’s my excuse for writer’s block this week.

Introvert Monday: This Is So True

My sister linked me to this comic the other day.  Her depiction of introversion is spot on and her drawings are, well, actually drawingslife like instead of doodles.  And her character even has red hair!

In other news, I finally bought The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.  I’m very excited to reread this book!  I hope to highlight some of the important points from her findings and share them with you.

Our Book Table

table of books

My husband and I have a coffee table in our living room, but we never put coffee cups on it.  Instead, we use it as a bookshelf.  It started innocently enough–at first we only put books on there that we were currently reading.  However, as this year has gone on, we’ve started piling books on the coffee table that we are reading, think that we might like to read, or books that we have pulled out for reference.

Yesterday I realized that we had cluttered up the coffee table with a huge pile of books (again).  Likewise, I noticed that we had an interesting conglomeration of topics.  Consequently, I decided to note all the titles of all the books on our coffee table:

-The Highly Sensitive Person
-The Lutheran Service Book (Gift Edition)
-The Two Towers
-ESV Bible (Note taking edition)
-The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism
-I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression 
-Cooking for Geeks
-And She Was Christian: Why Do Believers Commit Suicide?
-The Introvert Advantage
-The Introvert's Way
-Blogging for Dummies
-I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar
-The Silmarillian
-Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible
-The Lutheran Study Bible

I didn’t even count the books that had piled up on our end tables.  Sheesh.  Anyway, as I put away some of our books, I decided that perhaps a better way of keeping books out is to have an empty bookshelf (or at least an empty shelf or two) in our living room.  That way we could put books were weren’t immediately reading on the empty shelves and not clutter up the coffee table.  There is a practical aspect to this solution as well–it’s easier to pull a book off a shelf than to move around piles of books to get to the one I want.  I would try to implement this system immediately, but it seems silly to rearrange our books since we’re moving in about a month.

And for those of you concerned that I don’t understand the joy of being surrounded by books, don’t worry–There are still six or seven books strewn across the coffee table (even after I “cleaned up”).  🙂

What do you use as a pseudo-bookshelf?  

The Age Gap

Most of my life, my age has been underestimated.  Growing up, my sister and I were often mistaken for twins (I’m two years older than she is).  I once confused one of my co-workers in college by telling her I was going to be a senior.  I meant a senior in college, she thought I meant a senior in high school.  Last year I was often mistaken for my employers’ daughter instead of their nanny.  Likewise, an older lady tried to charge me a children’s admission to a corn maze two autumns ago.  You had to be 12 or younger to get the children’s admission–I was 23.

I have found there is a correlation between how old a person is and how young they guess I am.  I was bored enough today to draw you a graph:age graphFor the most part, people in their 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s will generally place me at least in my lower 20’s.  However, as we start looking at people in their 50’s, my estimated age starts dropping.  Ask people in their 60’s or older and suddenly I’m a young teenager again.  I’m not exaggerating–when my husband and I went to visit one of our support congregations, several older women told me that they thought I was 13.

My parents always tell me that someday I’ll appreciate looking younger than my age but it can still be frustrating now to have people assume I am a child when I graduated from college and got married almost 3 years ago.  Due to this frustration, I have started devising ways of making myself look older.

1.  Wear fancier clothing.

fancy clothes

I’m supposed to be wearing a suit. . .

The problem with this plan is that either I’m a) running around after children or b) lounging around my house.  Neither option is a big motivator to try to wear nice things.  Either way, I’m prone to ruin the clothes.

2.  Grow a beard.


Having a beard helps my husband look older.  When I suggested this plan to him, he just told me that it probably wouldn’t have the effect I intended.

3.  Wear clothing that announces my age.


When I was growing up, my mom would make my siblings and me a shirt every year that said “I am [insert age].”  However, something tells me that wearing a shirt announcing that I am 5 isn’t the same as wearing shirt that announces I am 25.

4.  Steal someone’s baby because babies always make you look older.

stealing baby

Haha, just kidding about the stealing part–I know enough people with babies that I’m sure someone would let me borrow their child (well, maybe they won’t after seeing this picture. . .).

5.  Dye my hair gray.


Just to really confuse people.

Do you look young for your age?  What do you do try to make yourself look older?

You Know Your Husband is in the Seminary When (Part 2)

2 years ago I wrote about how you know your husband is in the seminary.  While those observations remain true, I have more to add.  Perhaps by the time my husband graduates, I will have the world’s greatest list of “You Know Your Husband is in the Seminary When. . .”

1.  You find his alb in the backseat of your car while running errands.  Apparently it never made it back to the church after the last weekend trip.

alb in car

2.  You hesitate when people ask where you are from.  Do they mean where you grew up?  Or do they mean where you have lived most of your adult life (which is hard to pinpoint)?  Or do they mean where you are currently living?

home is where your heart is

If you don’t understand this quote, you should watch “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog.” 🙂

3.  You never, ever throw out a cardboard box.  You know that the next move is always coming.


4.  You don’t really send out moving announcements, more of moving reminders.  At this point everyone should just assume that you are moving in the summer.

moving again

5.  You’ve given up on telling people that your husband is a vicar and just tell them he’s on internship.  Or, as my mom likes to tell people, he’s student preaching.

what is a vicar

I mean, I never even heard of a vicar in the LC-MS until college!

6.  You’re constantly humbled by the gifts people give you.  It’s not just the monetary donations, it’s the thoughtful presents like baked goods or decorations people happily give you because they appreciate your husband’s work.

Sometimes a Gift Means More Than the Giver Intended

7.  It seems like every other week you are happily celebrating a pregnancy announcement or the birth/baptism of a baby.  You’ve also wept and prayed for the families who have lost children due to miscarriage or stillbirth, something that is rarely talked about in our society.  


8.  You haven’t seen some of your closest seminary friends in a year or two because their husbands are in a different year than your husband.  Thank goodness for Facebook and e-mails!


9.  You find that you’ve somehow absorbed some of your husband’s theological ramblings.  Not enough to keep up with his classmates and him, but enough to have a vague idea of what things like Arianism and Antinomianism are.

spotty knowledge

10.  You have learned that faith in God doesn’t mean trust in your own strength to remain faithful in times of trial, but instead means knowing that He still gives you faith even when you’re at your weakest.  “In the same way [the Holy Spirit] calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith,” from Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostle’s Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism.

cross in the dark

Introvert Monday: The Birthday Party

birthday party

On Saturday, my husband and I attended my nanny children’s birthday party (my nanny kids and their cousins all have birthdays in the same month, so their family throws a big birthday party for them every year).  This would be the first large group, non-church event we have attended since starting vicarage and truth be told, I was dreading this party all week.  I knew that I wouldn’t know most people at the party.  There would be a lot of people at the party.  Basically, I feared that I would go into introvert/anxiety mode in front of my boss.  By Saturday morning, I was berating myself for not finding an excuse to get out of going to the party.

However, it turned out to be a pleasant party.  The usual sensation of unease and stress never arose.  I didn’t feel my shoulders tense or my heart race.  It was the most comfortable I have felt at a large group event in a long time.

As we drove home from the party, I wondered why I felt so relaxed at the birthday party while Sunday mornings still remain a stressful ordeal.  My ponderings lead me to three reasons:

1.  There was ample space.  Crowds and noise are big triggers for me–that’s part of the reason I struggle so much at church (I know that I should be thrilled that the church is crowded with happy people; it still makes me uneasy).  However, the birthday party was outdoors with plenty of space for the numerous children to run around.  Likewise, there were several picnic tables spread out, meaning that when we sat down we weren’t bombarded by other tables’ conversations.

2.  I had a surrogate.  I’ve mentioned before that having a surrogate–a non-shy person to help a shy person in social situations–can be extremely helpful.  My husband is my surrogate.  While he is an ambivert (someone who falls in the middle of the extrovert/introvert continuum), he isn’t shy.  Likewise, he is a very gifted in small talk, meaning he can navigate social encounters with much more ease than I can.  Unfortunately, on Sunday mornings (and really any church event) my husband cannot be my surrogate because he is working.  However, for this party he was able to stay with me.  He didn’t need to rush off to talk to this person or that person.  And he was able to handle the small talk.

3.  There weren’t any expectations about my behavior.  I’ve heard it all before:  Just because I’m the vicar’s wife doesn’t mean I have to do certain things.  Despite this, I still feel pressure to be gregarious at church.  And whether I like it or not, what I say and do reflects on my husband.  This adds to the stress of Sunday mornings.  However, at the birthday party I was only the nanny.  If I didn’t talk much, if I seemed “shy,” that was okay–I have never heard of anyone expecting their nanny to be outgoing.  Likewise, it’s easier to monitor my behavior in relation to how it reflects on me than how it reflects on someone else.

The party provided both comfort in concern.  On one hand, here was proof that I could still function at a social event without going catatonic.  On the other hand, the three factors that made this party easier to tolerate cannot be easily emulated on Sunday mornings.

What do strategies to you use to make awkward social situations easier?    

And From Cross Bearer I Get. . .

On Sunday, one of my husband’s friends from seminary is getting ordained.  He asked my husband to help with his ordination and installation service.  Generally a good job to give a seminarian helping out with a service like this is crucifer (the guy who carries in the crucifix in the procession).  However, my husband’s friend’s new church doesn’t have a crucifix, they have a cross.  Consequently, my husband isn’t the crucifer, he’s the cross bearer.  But whenever I hear “cross bearer,” I think of this:

cross bear

It’s a cross bear. Get it? A bear who is cross!

Getting to Know People at the End of Vicarage. . . Or Not

Okay, so I realize that I’m not the easiest person to get to know.  I’ve mentioned before that it takes a long time for me to consider a person a friend and that shyness and introversion make socializing difficult.  Between these two factors, I feel that I come off a bit. . . prickly, like a cactus (you know, something that you are better off observing from a distance unless you decide to approach very carefully).hugging cactus  Despite my prickliness, congregation members still invite my husband and me to do things with them.  My husband says that I’m invited as well because people like both of us; I say I’m invited because I’m an accessory for my husband.

Anyway, the last week and a half have been particularly tough.  We’ve been receiving more social invitations than we did in the earlier months of vicarage.  Really, I should be ecstatic.  After months of very limited social interaction, here are people actually taking the time to meet with us one-on-one.  This should be perfect for the introvert in me.

But I don’t want to get to know these people better.  It’s selfish, but I know with only 6 weeks left before our move that I will get very little  in return for the social energy I put out now.  I know these people are perfectly nice, but I’m so very tired of trying to get to know new people only to move away.  I would rather simply focus on the few friendships I have managed to cultivate this year and not bother with any other socializing.


But that’s bad.  That’s ungrateful.  That’s close-minded.  That’s unloving.  That’s unChristian.

Now guilt has started to take hold.  I fear that I haven’t done enough this year, that I offended people because I will never really get to know them.  I feel guilty that I take so long to warm up to people and that I can’t seem to pull together basic social graces.  I worry that my introversion is rapidly forming into anti-socialness.  Most of all, I continue to fear that I really can’t manage this whole “pastor’s wife” thing.

Book Review: Broken

talking to people

Well, I’m technically not busy right now, but between some in-depth post ideas, trying to help pull together the seminary wives newsletter, and this weird thing called “actually interacting with people,” I feel like I have about a million things whirling through my brain.  Consequently, today you’re getting my review of Broken:  7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Johnathan Fisk.

I read Broken several weeks ago, quickly calling “dibs” on it as soon as my husband bought it.  It was awesome!  Pastor Fisk takes a close look at our culture today and discusses the root of the problems within our churches instead of attacking the symptoms.  Additionally, he shows that these root problems (a.k.a. the “Christian” rules to be broken) are not new to our culture, but are commonly old heresies that deviate from God’s Word and hide under the guise of modern ideas.  The opening chapter states, “This [disappearance of belief in a pure Word from God] is nothing new.  It has happened before, and it will happen again.  But every time it happens, every time Christianity declines in a society, it happens for the same reason:  because genuine believers tried laying a foundation on something other than God’s Word,” (pg. 14).  With topics like mysticism and prosperity, Pastor Fisk shows how easily we Christians wrongly try to replace God’s Word with something of our own creation.

While Pastor Fisk’s metaphors get a bit long at times, his proclamation of  the Gospel at the end of every chapter bring comfort to any Christian struggling to make sense of our chaotic world and the disturbing trends we see in American Christianity.

Image from