In today’s post-modern world, the college degree is, to many, a monotonous pursuit with a singular goal: to obtain a stable and lucrative career.
Society’s most esteemed careers paths are those within high-income STEM fields like medicine and engineering. But what of the students whose career aspirations lie beyond the analytical, within the highly-emotive world of the humanities?
For as long as I can remember, school was always about preparing students for STEM careers. An emphasis was placed almost solely on the study of math and science, with humanities there to enrich our experience rather than to make a career out of. They were important—but other things were more important.
Society feels programmed to favor the sciences and discount humanities and the arts. Careers in STEM make money; they allow you to support a family.
It makes sense, this idea of wanting to have a comfortable life and a career to support it—but the problem with placing value solely in the sciences is that those who prefer the humanities are left by the wayside.
Some people are simply more inclined to learn ancient Greek history than about statistics or chemistry. There should not be a stigma behind pursuing your academic interests, whatever they may be.
Beyond the search for a lucrative career, STEM majors are often perceived as being smarter than humanities majors, perpetuating the societal preference for the scientifically-minded. When someone decides to pursue a career in the humanities, they are often looked at as “somehow less valuable,” according to a 2018 Forbes report.
Recently, more and more students are receiving STEM degrees, increasing by 43% from 2009 to 2015. Within the same time period, the number of students receiving humanities or arts educations decreased by about 0.5%. A trivial decrease, to be sure—but there is a growing disparity between the two forms of higher learning.
While my own personal experience with pursuing a career in the humanities has been one of support from my family and peers, it does not go as smoothly for others. Certain minority groups, as well as cohorts, “are discouraged from going into the arts and humanities.”
To stigmatize an entire branch of education is a travesty for those who are interested in it, creating unnecessary divisions within society between those in the liberal arts and those in the “hard sciences.” Our education system, like our society, should not be so clean cut.
The skills the humanities give the traditionally STEM-educated cannot be understated. According to George Anders’ book, “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education,” the humanities teach us “curiosity, creativity and empathy” as traits that should not “be reined in to ensure success. Just the opposite.”
In an increasingly analytical world, education needs a balance of humanities to round out even the most scientifically-minded members of society. We should not stigmatize learning about what makes us human but rather celebrate it.
While society should not exclusively celebrate the study of one field over the other, it definitely shouldn’t stoop to condemning either as a lesser form of learning.
Domenic Purdy is a 19-year-old journalism sophomore from Prairieville.