Why there should not be a divide between arts and STEM

Written by: Rani Jivani

STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A four-letter word that everyone perceives differently. Some believe it should have the greatest focus, while others think the arts and humanities should take its place. There is no single defining point that makes STEM the greatest area to major in, rather the opinions and statistics that make it seem stronger and favorable. Teachers and students have been arguing over which one is considered better: STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

Much of this debate arose a little over than a decade ago.  In 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics magazine published an article titled “What Can I Do with My Liberal Arts Degree?” which in short asked the question in a condescending manner.

Since then, the increase in STEM education has raised the concerns about the value of a liberal arts education. The majority of people have the conception that STEM is superior to the humanities. However, we should be emphasising the benefits of the arts. It goes beyond reading books; it opens one to the ideas of the world and encourages one reflect on them. Those who study humanities not only gain skills to think critically and write clearly, but they are able to provide an alternate viewpoint on important issues. Leaders and decision makers are able to run a successful business because of the people they employ that have a broad range of ideas and opinions.

There is no doubt that STEM classes have top priority while the humanities are pushed to the side. At school, this divide between students is extremely prevalent. Even though we are a STEM based school, a well balanced education is necessary to further excel when leaving high school. We are fortunate to have the resources for students to take as many sciences as they want but the question is what about the other side of the spectrum. Students here can take up to three science or math classes, but are only limited to one English class. Students who are deeply curious about the works of Dickens, Brontë, or Austen are limited to only one class to explore their horizons. On the other hand, those who enjoy equations and numbers can spend hours at a time to explore it in school. In addition, there is a strong unspoken opinion here that those strong in subjects such as the sciences and mathematics are considered smarter than those who are more inclined to the arts and humanities. What makes numbers and equations more valuable than drawings and books? If someone is interested in delving deeper into the meanings of literature rather than the laws of gravity, why should that person have to feel inferior?

Even though there is a quantitative imbalance between STEM and the humanities here, I feel like the qualitative differences are more detrimental. As I walk through the hallways between classes, I see that almost everyone is bonding over their anxiety for their impossible STEM class, mostly physics and calculus. I rarely hear this for any English class, for that anxiety is talked about for a couple of minutes, then overtaken by their math or science class. Those that suffer through physics are regarded as smarter, while those who are talented writers and artists do not get all the credit they deserve.

The difficulty of a class for a student does not measure their intellectual capacity. All it means is for each person, certain modes of thought just come more naturally than others. As individuals, we tend to like doing what we believe we are good at, and the more we do something the better we get at it.

“I believe having a well rounded education is important. In addition,  people should be more accepting of all forms of intelligence, whether that be in the arts or the sciences, neither one being stronger than the other one..” said AS Literature teacher Mr.Partagas.

When you look at two different people, one that is gifted in science and the other in English, they are equally as smart but in different subjects. Instead of dividing ourselves over these differences, we as a student body should embrace what each of us loves doing and accept that each one of us is our own kind of smart.  

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