The liberal arts should not be overshadowed by STEM
By MICHELLE HUANG
Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) curriculums are the most important in schools. This is not a question; it’s a statement. In fact, it is an assumption taken on by so many people today that no one gives the country’s obsession with STEM a second thought anymore.
So often today do educators and businesses categorize all students as avid pursuers of STEM careers, and as a result, liberal arts studies have been dramatically pushed back in importance.
Many times, school administrators will try to convince parents to send students to their schools because of the variety of STEM courses that they offer.
But rarely do we hear schools advertising their liberal arts programs; even if they do, it is often added as an afterthought to the lengthy description of a school’s STEM program.
Do schools and the government promote this infatuation with STEM education for the betterment of individual students? Or, is STEM promoted only as a means to allow America’s economy trump those of other countries? The answer seems, according to the country’s means to advance technology, to be the latter.
From the very beginning of prioritizing STEM over liberal arts, society’s intention has been obvious. Its interest in strengthening the nation’s knowledge of math and science most prominently began during the Cold War, specifically during the Soviet-American Space Race.
When Americans felt that they were beginning to lose the Space Race, they realized that something needed to be done. To beat the Russians, the government pumped millions of dollars into the education system in hopes of providing more extensive education on math, science and technology to defeat the Soviets.
As a result of this continuous emphasis on technology and sciences, much of our country’s liberal arts interests have dwindled. For many, this does not seem like a big problem, since our world is technologically advancing so quickly that people have begun to measure the world’s progress in terms of the abundance of technological advancement.
However, there are so many other aspects of a functioning society that need to be in place, most of which are in the liberal arts fields.
For example, journalists and writers are an essential part of a society; by placing less emphasis on them, the importance of staying up-to-date on current events would be lost.
Sure, print newspapers are becoming more and more obsolete with the advancement of technology, but that does not diminish the importance of journalism and news themselves. Even if we had all the technology in the world, without people to write, investigate and report on news recent happenings of the world, no one would know what is going on outside of their own little bubble.
Perhaps people do not stop to think about just how profound of an impact liberal arts careers have on society. Many people perceive “liberal arts” as synonymous to literary studies. However, liberal arts careers range from psychology to economics, to government studies. All of these aspects of the liberal arts are integral parts of society; without them, society would not be able to function peacefully.
For instance, lawyers are another prime example of liberal arts careers’ crucial role in society. While the crime rate in the world as a whole has been dropping or staying steady in the last quarter-century, law and order is something that will forever pose problems in society. And who better to judge the punishments for such crimes than judges and lawyers—both liberal arts careers—who have gone to extensive schooling to train in this field?
If we discourage the passion in educating students interested in liberal arts by pushing them towards “more practical” fields such as engineering and science, we are actually creating an obstacle in society as a whole.
Every career has its own importance in the world, and sometimes, having a surplus of workers in one career while disregarding another does not help the preferred one all that much. However, the careers that are getting ignored prove to be an important piece of society, especially in the long run.
And that is the biggest mistake of the education system today. If we can realize that both STEM careers and liberal arts careers provide an equal amount of undoubtedly reverse their focus toward liberal arts, then the education system, as well as the workforce, can not only attain, but maintain, an effective balance in the future.