Opinion: The “competition” between STEM and humanities majors

By James Stein Oct 8, 2021
Image by Isabel Sperry
Image by Isabel Sperry

Humans are constantly in competition with each other. Part of the survival instinct is to be better than one another and to beat someone to the punch. We as a society have progressed past the need for survival competition, but the trend of living in a constant state of conflict on a college campus is exhausting. 

As an English major, I’ve heard a lot of well-meaning people ask me what I plan to do with my life after college. They tell me that I will not be able to find a job outside of publishing or teaching, and that I should pursue a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field. As someone who has parents, siblings, and extended family who work within STEM fields, the job opportunities don’t seem that much brighter than humanities positions. We’ve placed certain values in favor of some of the subjects over the others because of their perceived contribution to society.

Society has put STEM jobs on such a high pedestal that light hearted jokes and well-meaning comments have become hostile on a college campus. I’ve noticed that  students see our humanities or STEM counterparts as lesser-than because they are within different disciplines of the education system.  

Classes having to do with science or math are notoriously difficult in technicality, but history and english classes are not. But both of these areas challenge our critical thinking skills, science and math are just considered more important because they will have “real world applications.” Both disciplines – STEM and humanities – will have uses in the real world. We should not consider one more valuable than the other. 

Both science and humanities contribute to the betterment of society, it is simply a matter of where. Science and technological advancement are necessary for the forward movement of healthcare, business, and much more. These things are necessary for us as a society to survive. But liberal arts are necessary for humans to enjoy life and enrich themselves, we are constantly consuming media by reading, watching tv, listening to music – all of these things would not be possible without the liberal arts education. 

The lack of respect that we have for disciplines outside of our own is something that needs to be reevaluated. All majors have a significant impact on our society, and they are equally important. Even if a specific field does not directly contribute to the betterment of other people, everyone is allowed to pursue their interests without feeling the need to be of use to the world. Every discipline carries some importance within the community of education.

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