December Theme: A Gift

The dedication in my next-to-most-recent book reads: For my parents, who said “Wonderful!” and not “How do you expect to make a living at that?” when I declared a major in classics

Since 1984, I’ve been teaching at a university that regularly makes it to those lists of “Top 20 colleges in the United States.” Parents rightly expect a lot from the kids whose expensive educations they are funding. Still, I sometimes wonder at their priorities. I’ve had more than one student tell me that their parents will pay their tuition only if they take pre-med courses, or if they major in something “practical,” like engineering, and if they really love art history—well, that’s what minors are for.

When I hear these stories I can offer only my sympathy. If my parents had made those restrictions, I don’t know where I would have wound up. I probably would have made more money than I have over 27 years of teaching and 18 of writing for young readers, but I'm sure I would have been miserable. And I don’t think I would have become a writer. Everything I learned in my classes helped fashion the kind of writer I am and the kind of writing I do—not only the historical fiction set in the classical world, but the nonfiction, the mysteries set in the current time, everything.

The gift of a liberal-arts education was costly, but it was one my parents were happy to make. And I’ll be forever grateful.


  1. At the time when course requirements have you take such courses as Greek Mythology and Great Speakers of the Western World, you do question why. But those were the courses I remembered most and the ones I actually find practical now.

    Great post, Tracy!

  2. I agree, Tracy--there's really no such thing as an "impractical" education!

  3. I love this! I went after an English degree sans teaching certificate...and haven't looked back for a second.

    "What will you do with it if you don't teach?" Dad asked.



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