To STEM or Not To STEM: Definitely Not the Question

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a STEM girl. My dream major is biochemistry, I’m pretty math minded, and I’ve loved science ever since I was a kid. That being said, I’d never apply to a tech college (i.e. MIT, Calech, or Georgia Tech). However much I love STEM, I would never be so foolish as to call it the way to go. No matter how much people rag on unemployed English majors and how dumb it is to even consider majoring in musical theater when science and math is so in demand right now, the humanities/liberal arts aren’t a destination for lazy college students and idle minds. It just so happens that they’re not into STEM, and that’s okay. To STEM or not to STEM isn’t the essence of life.

I can kind of understand why people put STEM on a pedestal. After all, biology is booming. Engineering has always been made-to-order for employment after graduation. And everyone needs a mathematician/computer science major! How are you not an applied math major? Why aren’t you at least a medicine student, dammit?

Okay. Calm down, tiger mom. First of all, since when is life all about job security? There’s no universal formula for a happy life. Just because one person needs stability doesn’t mean the next can’t want to be thrown for a loop. And how often do you hear about engineering students or almost-doctors who resent their futures because they didn’t want them? Forget about job security! You will never be good at STEM if you hate it. You’ll never commit to it if you don’t want to. And that’s OKAY! It’s your life. You shouldn’t stake your future on a job market that is probably going to change drastically anyway. Look, even the demand for doctors might start dwindling soon. 

Second, do you really envision a perfect world where everyone is in STEM, period, and nothing else? Where the fuck would we put all those science diplomas anyway? This is just an idiotic hypothetical and in no way the ideal we should strive for. The reason why there are so many fields of study is because people have diverse interests, and quite frankly I’d rather live in a world with diverse interests than one where a few reign supreme. Evolutionarily and emotionally speaking, it’s just the better route to take. Every field of study has its own valid applications. Being the “starving artist” does not equate failure. Non-STEM isn’t nonfunctional. 

The thing that bugs me the most about “to STEM or not to STEM” is how freaking cliquey it’s become. My friend went to tour the Rhode Island School of Design a few weeks back and came back with stories about her tour guide trashing STEM for a bevy of stupid reasons. It’s not hard to find people on the Internet deriding liberal arts in some way, shape, or form–often for the most petty reasons. Just look at these choice pickings from the College Confidential forums:

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I’m sorry, but it’s pretty hard to gauge the difficulty of something that you’ve never actually done. Sure, I can talk about how easy acrobatics looks in performance and how I could totally do that, but I’m then fundamentally misunderstanding the amount of effort it takes to make it look that easy. STEM is pretty difficult; that’s no secret. But the skills needed to really get your points across in a Socratic seminar or an interpretive essay are as hard to learn, if not harder, than math and science skills. It just so happens that STEM has a great deal of marketability.

And yet, most of the people who went down in history didn’t do it because they stayed in the comfort zone and went for the most “marketability”. Van Gogh was a starving artist his whole life, but he’s arguably one of the best fucking painters who ever lived. Jane Addams didn’t go for the traditional female roles of the time (settling down and getting married), she went to college and ended up making a world of difference for the disadvantaged of American society. So basically…fuck marketability. A (hu)man is not a piece of fruit.

Enough with trashing people who have different interests. Enough with acting like the world is better only because of what you study. The world is a big place, with lots of talented people in different fields. It’s time we acted like it.

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