To start, I want to clarify my stance. I am not saying that the arts do not deserve equal recognition to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematical) oriented classes. The arts are vital to obtain an equal distribution of knowledge. English skills are important to have in whatever career path you follow. People who have skills in musical instruments are shown to develop a stronger memory. Creativity in art heightens brain activity and overall core skills. However, the emphasis on STEM careers in recent years has a just place. Whether it be climate change scientists needing people to analyze data, or coral planters needing an engineer to help construct a new artificial coral habitat, the sciences have their place in society.
The emphasis on STEM oriented classes is completely necessary and justified in the society we live in today. Anyone who takes AP classes is well aware of the amount of money it takes to go to college. When it comes to housing fees, book costs, and tuition in general, the cost of college is steadily increasing at an exponential rate. According to a statement from cnbc.com, college tuition costing $20,000 in the year 1990 would cost $98,696.26 in 2019, and that number is only increasing.
So how does this explain the necessity of STEM classes? According to thebalancecareers.com, the number one job people with an English degree get is a Social Media Manager; a career with an average salary of ~$48,000. Compare that to someone with a data science degree or electrical engineering, and according to the University of Wisconsin, you’re going into a field with a salary of roughly $110,000 . That’s over double the salary of a social media manager. With increasing tuition prices and an interest percentage of around 5.8%, the struggle to get on top of student loans is larger than it’s ever been. Between rent, car costs, and other daily expenses, with a salary of $48,000, a student will live with that debt for the rest of their lives.
Things in America aren’t like they used to be. My parents told my older sibling to “do what you love and find someone to pay you for it.” However, in recent years the central idea of a career has changed. No longer is it a fun journey for you to go on after high school. It’s four years of college at a minimum, then struggling through entry level jobs to try and keep up with student loan payments. You can’t scrape by with a minimum paying job after spending $98,000 on tuition. You can’t afford to be looking for a career and be paying off your student loans at the same time.
Sure, life isn’t all about the money. You can argue that the goal of life is fulfillment rather than wealth. I’m not trying to persuade people to join a STEM based career just for financial gain. I’m simply clarifying why there has been a recent emphasis on STEM careers, and why the emphasis is necessary. Not everyone feels that math and science is a punishment. For those who don’t thrive in the written word, the world of statistics and science analysis can oftentimes be one of enjoyment. So why wouldn’t you want to make a substantial amount of money while doing what you love?
In the end, the career you choose should be one that you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to go into an engineering degree because of the paycheck it will bring. Don’t force yourself to write essays because you fear the dominance the STEM careers have in colleges. Do whatever you enjoy. Just remember that if you happen to enjoy math, the paycheck is just a happy little bonus.
The humanities are defined as “learning or literature concerned with human culture, especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy.” Upstaged by beakers and microscopes, the humanities are not promoted as a valid field of study and career opportunity in our current society.
STEM fields have been shoved down our throats due to the American school system promoting them so feverently. The Olathe School District is contributing to this push, which encourages young students to choose a career path at the age of 14. I know this because I felt that push in 2015.
I have always had a love for reading and the arts in general, but I somehow convinced myself that applying for Medical Professions in 8th grade was a good idea. It wasn’t. After just three weeks of being in the program, I hated it. It just wasn’t for me. But I kept going to all of those 8th grade opportunity and career events and assemblies, and all of these people were telling me how important it is to have women in STEM fields. I felt pressured to pursue a STEM career by my mom (because she wants me to be successful) and my grandma (because she’s a chemistry professor). So when I finally made the decision to drop my program and switch to Distinguished Scholars for its language arts content area, my mom was at least slightly disappointed, even if she won’t admit it.
I don’t regret being in Medical Professions because it led me to Distinguished Scholars. Medical Professions is a great program that gives countless opportunities to its students, and I hope the program continues to prosper in the future. However, I am disappointed that students face this much pressure to pursue STEM.
By promoting STEM fields to children, especially when they’re in middle and high school, we think we are helping young individuals explore amazing opportunities and fields they hadn’t considered before. But an overly enthusiastic and aggressive push towards STEM related endeavors and away from the humanities will only hurt young and impressionable children. It will only make teenagers afraid of pursuing a humanities degree that “won’t get them anywhere.” But, hey, if you’re a doctor and you hate your job, at least you can cry in your Tesla while you drive to your home in the hills? That’s a good reason to major in Biology, right?
We need to create more programs and activities in the school environment to encourage participation in the humanities. Remember when we went to the library every week in elementary school? And that joyous feeling when you got to romp around the Scholastic Book Fair? And silent reading time where we all found ourselves lost in worlds with wizards, talking animals, and greek gods?
Why did that stop when we got to middle and high school?
We need to maintain some type of balance in our promotion of humanities and STEM so children and young adults are aware of the different paths they can explore. Additionally, we need to make sure we aren’t pressuring students to make a decision on what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they’re 14. Letting them explore different areas of study is essential, but we also need to let them know it’s ok if their interests change later down the road.
I’m planning on studying English next year at the University of Kansas. Maybe my degree will be worthless. Maybe I’ll become the rich CEO of Penguin Books (I’m throwing this out into the universe right now in case the law of attraction is real). Maybe I’ll be an English teacher and force students to study books by Charlotte Brontë and Willaim Shakespeare.
But hey, at least I’ll be able to quote Jane Austen while begging for money on the streets.