What Ted Turner's dad told him about his liberal arts major

Ted Turner

I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on my way home today. … I am a practical man, and for the life of me I cannot possibly understand why you should wish to speak Greek. With whom will you communicate in Greek?

Turner, of course, went on to found CNN.

College columnist Zac Bissonnette uses Turner’s case to illustrate how ultimately unimportant it is what your college major is.

He makes a few points, which I’m summarizing here:

  • Most people will graduate with higher G.P.A.s if they study something they are passionate about. High G.P.A.s help graduates land jobs, and there is a fairly strong correlation between class rank and career earnings.
  • There is a disconnect between students’ perceptions of what employers want and what employers actually want. A survey described in an article in Canadian HR Reporter stated: “Most employers cite communication skills as the most important skill for a candidate to possess, while generation Y (aged 18 to 35) believe employers are looking for experience.”
  • Focus on the transferability of your skills. Such is life in a rapidly changing, technology-driven global economy. Choosing a major that places job training ahead of mind development carries a risk.
  • Majoring in something that interests you is just the obvious thing to do. You’ll have more fun, have a richer experience and be less likely to dropout if you are actually passionate about what you’re studying.