questions double majoring
Belinda J. Lovett,
NEWS & FEATURES EDITOR
"To double major or not to double major?" was the question
proposed by student government facilitators Kyle Staller '04 and Jennifer
Cromwell '01 at the last Common Hour, a Campus Crosstalk debate sponsored
by Student Government.
The debate addressed the question of whether or not
double majoring is "contrary to the goals of a liberal arts education."
John Turner, a professor in the romance languages department, and John
Hahn '01 debated in favor of double majoring. Clifton Olds, a professor
in the art history department, and Dominique Alepin '03 debated against
At Bowdoin, approximately one quarter of the student
body graduates with a double major, some as similar as sociology and anthropology,
and others as different as biology and philosophy. However, it is not
agreed as to whether or not double majoring goes against the idea of a
liberal arts education.
Although both sides stood up for their opinions regarding
double majors, in the end, they seemed to agree that double majoring should
be neither forced nor prohibited.
Alepin began the debate by saying, "The liberal arts
education is on the brink of extinction." She said that double majoring
limits a student's opportunities to take classes in different areas of
study, which is contrary to the very idea of a liberal arts education.
Hahn countered by saying, "The liberal arts education
is not static--it is always changing." He explained that although the
liberal arts education at one point may have repre sented the idea of
taking a wide variety of classes, today it represents the opportunity
to study several topics of interest in depth.
According to Hahn, the double major is a "fusion
of two areas of study that are complementary to each other." In that respect,
he said, the liberal arts education is still well-preserved in the concept
of a double major.
Olds took his turn by saying, "The goals of a liberal
arts education include both depth and breadth….I don't debate that disciplines
can complement each other…but we [shouldn't] encourage students to double
One of the main arguments against double majoring was
the lack of breadth in one's subject material. However, Hahn said, "Although
I do agree with increasing breadth, at what cost? The cost of depth?…The
tradition of a double major provides both depth and some breadth."
Turner explained his reasoning for encouraging double
majors by saying, "It is between things that truth seems to lie….Everything,
it turns out, is connected." By combining two disciplines, he said, one
is able to find that connection, and thus find truth.
Hahn said that he thought that the purpose of a college
education was to get skills to sell on the job market. "The double major
is a compromise of learning by a free-spirited approach and being competitive
in the job market."
As a result, by double majoring, one can gain twice
as many skills that could be useful in finding a job after graduation.
However, Turner, who also supported double majoring,
said that a liberal arts education is for a life well lived, not for a
career. He did say, though, that double majoring is good for students
who change careers.
Alepin responded by asking, "It's not what you major
in, it's what you do here….Should you embrace what is offered here at
Bowdoin or prepare yourself for the work world?"
In the end, both Turner and Olds agreed that the job
market is not interested so much in what one majors in, but in how well
one does while at Bowdoin.
Still, Turner maintained that "what you can do here
that you won't be able to do later in life is…to commit yourselves to…pursuing
two things with great seriousness."
Olds, on the other hand, said, "Your time at Bowdoin
should not be a time for limiting your horizons, it should be a time for