“So, what’s your favorite subject?”
I think and then reply, “English, for sure.”
They laugh real loud. “Funny! So, what subject are you actually going to study in college? Chemistry? Engineering? No, wait – chemical engineering?”
Variations of this conversation have occurred my entire life. One time it was with my father, another with a random passenger on the train I was traveling on. Yet, all share this common thread: STEM is the only area worth investing time in.
This obsession with science, technology, engineering and mathematics parallels the rapid growth of these industries worldwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, STEM occupations are expected to grow more than 9 million by 2022. In 2016, China and India had a combined 7.3 million STEM graduates and are the two countries that lead the world in these areas.
The societal impact of these numbers has been seen as well. Younger kids are being steered more than ever towards becoming doctors and engineers, chemists and software developers. With this push towards the future, however, a disdain of the arts and humanities is growing.
Degrees in the liberal arts are viewed as useless and easy to obtain, despite the fact that subjects in these areas, including language, literature and history are some of the hardest to learn and master. The skills that are associated and learned alongside the arts can be applied in a multitude of different careers, including STEM fields. Creativity and cultural understanding flourish with the arts and the writers, artists and historians help record and illustrate the state of the world and their minds.
Many argue that liberal arts majors just do not make the same amount of money as their fellow engineers or scientists. And this, to be honest, is true. However, the average salary difference between these two groups is not as drastic as presumed. In a study done by Association of American Colleges and Universities, the average earnings between the humanities majors and the professional majors differ by only about two thousand dollars.
The problem is not pursuing a STEM subject. Science and technology are subjects with their own set of rewards and it is understandable if one wants to major in these fields. The issue is the idea that STEM is somehow superior to liberal arts, when in fact these two areas combine often and influence each other. Shaming someone for wanting to study a subject they genuinely are interested in because it does not match society’s guidelines of a “useful major” is completely unnecessary and offensive.
So, to all the English majors out there like myself or any other liberal arts majors that have been ridiculed for years – keep doing you.
Photo: Thiago Barletta