March, 2002

An English Major's Secrets for Success

by Rose A. Doherty
From The Christian Science Monitor - November 14, 2001 edition

How does a liberal education prepare one for one's life path rather than just one's first job? Rose Doherty discusses her own path as English major in response to a colleague's lament over daily tasks unrelated to "life plans" and career paths. She answers by stating that "the English major is perfect for the task" of preparing one to read, write, and think clearly and quickly. "The English major teaches us what must be done seriously (everything) and what must be taken seriously (almost nothing except people)." Doherty goes on to discount studying or majoring in subjects that only "provide one with a living" and suggests that by reading and coming to understand difficult literature and philosophy, students are able to "discover their strengths as learners." She goes on to note the myriad and diverse occupations held by former English majors.

A notable and recent English major "success story" is that of Bethany McLean, who, as a reporter for Fortune magazine, became the first journalist to question Enron's finances in her article "Is Enron Overpriced?" As she put it: "When you come out of a liberal arts background, you want to know why something is the way it is."

To view the orginal article in The Christian Science Montior, visit:

To view the The New York Times article on Bethany McLean, visit (this article, appearing January 28th, is no longer available for free but can be purchased).


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