Imbalance between STEM and humanities majors persists

in Opinion by

The emphasis of data in daily life affects how achievements and long-term education are viewed today. According to Kristen Shi, a reporter for the Medium, “The valuation of a STEM degree cannot, and should not, be based on a comparison of the arts degree.” 

The existence of the humanities and STEM in society are equally necessary. However, the value placed on education in English, for example, has significantly decreased. This is seen in declining literacy rates across the nation. According to Steven Mintz, a writer from Inside Higher Ed, “As the proportion of the population entering college has grown, the share of students with advanced reading skills has declined, which has encouraged faculty to reduce reading requirements.”

This also may be why CollegeBoard reformatted the SAT to have much shorter passages and easier questions. Not only would these changes accommodate for shorter attention spans, but also lower standards on the reading sections for test takers.

While it is true that test scores have generally declined due to the after effects of the pandemic, it is still crucial to keep a close eye on student performance on the reading and grammar sections because of how much these skills are used in professional settings.

The lack of students pursuing humanity-related degree programs and getting academically recognized for them ties them tto the wide encouragement of students to go into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

According to Shi, “We’ve gotten so used to saying that girls should go into STEM, that we stop telling them that articulate female political leaders are just as necessary in an equitable society.”

This circles back to society’s deep-rooted values and money-chasing tendencies, as illustrated in inan article in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter where reporter Neil Mahto wrote, “I’ve seen too many news articles about the most regretted college majors” or, even more egregious, “most useless college majors.” The first article, by CNBC, has journalism, communications, sociology and education as four of the most regretted college majors. The latter article lists the most typical humanities majors, such as English and philosophy, as “useless,” implying that students should ditch the arts for higher-paying STEM fields.”

The under appreciation of humanity majors is reflected in the number of degrees awarded. From the same article, “While a sizable number of students continue to study the humanities, the number of humanities degrees awarded drops every year, dropping nearly 25% from 2012 to 2020. This decline of the humanities could deeply hurt academia and society as a whole,” Mahto said.

Society, having strongly supported STEM fields for their high pay, now fails to reciprocate the same support for humanity fields that have lower paying jobs. This not only affects the ones pursuing these jobs, but also future generations.

Due to their objectivity, STEM fields are often viewed as an easier direction to commit to. 

“Achievements in the humanities are always subjective; your favorite poem or sculpture might be different from someone else’s favorite poem or sculpture. This subjectivity is part of the beauty of the humanities, but, unfortunately, it also means that achievements in art, theater, and writing are often undervalued. It’s very easy for somebody to look at an award-winning painting and simply decide that they don’t like it without looking for the merits in it. STEM fields tend to be more objective, so there’s less for outsiders to question; I think that’s why achievements in science and math tend to get more recognition,” co-president of National English Honor Society Bailey Vergara said.     Even with this subjectivity in the humanities, the fields and studies involved in the humanities play just as important a role in society as STEM fields. This may not show simply because it is not yet able to be quantified. 

The importance of the humanities has been shown in many forms of media including film. As actor Robin Williams once said, while playing John Keating in Dead Poets Society, “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love are what we stay alive for.” The humanities are important for the individuality they encourage in people. (Photo/Roman Eisele via Wikimedia Commons)      

Alina, a rising sophomore at American Heritage, is looking forward to her first year on the Patriot Post. Apart from reporting, she’s very involved in the arts and can often be found creating a new painting in her free time. Alina enjoys ballroom dancing, music, fashion, literature, and mathematics as she is a part of the math competition team, the National English Honor Society, and the National Art Honor Society. Nevertheless, her recent discovery of her passion for journalism has inspired her to capture the rhythm of life at American Heritage this coming year.