The Arts in a World of STEM

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Issue 10, Volume 111

By Lauren Chin 

As an elementary school student, my dream was to become an author. I had been writing ever since I could hold a pen and was telling stories long before that. To me, it seemed inevitable that I would become a writer in the future. Contrary to my classmates, I greatly enjoyed the writing assignments and essays we were given, pouring my heart and soul into these projects.

Though I achieved similar grades in English and mathematics, I was ultimately encouraged to study harder in the latter subject. Teachers and family members reminded me that most writers rarely achieved the level of fame and fortune that I hoped to attain. Eventually, I began to wonder if a degree in writing would really do me that much good. Perhaps it was better to pursue a career in something more secure, such as in the medical or financial fields. Like many others, I was encouraged to believe that the humanities and STEM were not equally beneficial to society.

The belief that STEM subjects are better than the humanities starts in the educational system. Within the past decade, the United States government has decided to fund STEM subjects more in an attempt to teach American children critical and analytical thinking. As a result, less of our daily education is spent on the humanities. This has created a trend of art departments receiving less funding than other subjects; just this past year, the New York City Department of Education cut their public art education budget by 30 percent.

Additionally, studies show that throughout the past decade, the number of college students in the United States who graduate with STEM degrees has increased, while the number of graduates with humanities degrees has stayed about the same, even decreasing in some places.

Life after school is no different. People who work in finance, computer science, or business are paid higher than artists, journalists, and writers. As of May 2019, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the highest-earning jobs are typically in the medical field, such as anesthesiologists or surgeons.

Obviously, STEM careers are extremely important. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating what math and science have done for our society, especially in this past year. For instance, medical workers have become more valued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the real issue arises when people see STEM subjects as more valuable than the humanities. Subjects like history, law, and literature are still extremely important in our daily lives.

As a Stuyvesant student, imagine what life would be like without your English class, the fifth-floor mural, or the colorful ads you see in the subway. As residents of New York, we appreciate how places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History are crucial parts of our city’s culture.

Outside of our personal lives, it’s also easy to see how the humanities have affected history. Thousands of years ago, before human civilization even existed, humans were first creating art. Additionally, studying history is especially important, as it ensures that we don’t make the same mistakes as our ancestors.

Aside from their cultural impact, the humanities help human development. Learning about art is critical for the development of a person’s behavior and contributes to increased civic engagement and a more open mind. Furthermore, art has been linked to improving a person’s mental health, allowing them to feel more confident and engaged. It is important in creating healthy and happy citizens.

Society needs both STEM subjects and the arts in order to flourish. They have been a part of humanity’s culture for thousands of years, helping us learn more about the world and how we fit into it. In order to allow each person to reach their full potential, we must value both subjects equally.