We need to study the humanities—not only STEM

In the race to push more and more kids into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, we’ve begun to neglect the importance of the humanities.

Arts degrees have been shamed for not being employable enough, derided as “soft” compared to the rigour required in the math-intensive sciences, and frowned on for the political controversies plaguing the field year after year. As arts programs at post-secondary education facilities crumble, educators are struggling to convince students their field still matters.

Defenders of the humanities have argued about the value of the arts and how the humanities teach us about the human condition, insisting the intellectual value of a college education doesn’t lie in its ability to make money.

While this is certainly true, studying the arts has become a luxury for students who can afford to be unemployed right after university. As a result, we’ve raised a generation of students who understand the value of the humanities, but believe them to be irrelevant to the demands of the modern world.

These beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth—the arts are more pertinent today than ever.

Humanities majors write your laws, report your news, create your entertainment, sell you your luxuries, and teach your children. The influence of this “useless” field of study in our everyday lives cannot be understated—you feel the consequences of the decisions made by hundreds of humanities majors every day.

Being able to understand the contexts they’re writing and speaking from is a crucial advantage.

Just like advocates for STEM education claim science and math are essential because they enhance students’ critical thinking skills, the humanities are important because they do the same.

The distinction, however, is the humanities tend to deal with more subjective knowledge—a kind of evidence arguably more difficult to parse than the quantitative data of science and math becoming increasingly important in our daily lives.

In an era when misinformation reigns supreme, much of the information and opinions we’re exposed to about current affairs can’t be evaluated with statistics, graphs, or tables. We must draw on a different kind of reasoning to assess their meaning.

Depriving students of an understanding of history, politics, language, religion, or rhetoric leaves them unprepared to recognize disingenuous sources of information, pick apart the subtleties of an argument, or comprehend the persuasive techniques constantly surrounding them.

The humanities provide as much a framework for navigating the world as math or science, and they’ll become increasingly essential to study as our lives become more complex. The real value of the arts is not at all abstract—it’s incredibly concrete and immediate.

Anne is a first-year Health Sciences student and one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors.

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