By Freeha Anjum
Growing up, many of us are told to “do something worthwhile” by going into STEM. In school, we rarely hear of people who want to pursue English or social studies in university, and we have many opportunities related to STEM that we love to pursue. But how much do we really know about the Liberal Arts growing up? We may learn it’s a useless degree, or maybe we haven’t heard much about it at all. Either way, it’s a huge misconception to believe that the liberal arts are worthless.
In truth, the humanities are just as important as STEM, but this fails to be recognized by a lot of people due to the recent importance being placed on STEM careers, even though it’s actually needed for a lot of STEM careers too. The number of students studying the liberal arts after high school has decreased 20% in the past few years, and large companies and educational facilities have recognized this as a serious problem, so in this 4-part article series, we’ll be highlighting the importance of STEAM—integrating STEM into the humanities.
Note: This is Part 1 of a 4-part article series titled “The Liberal Arts Matters”
What are the Humanities?
The liberal arts is an umbrella term for studies in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. We will be talking most specifically about the humanities, which consists of a wide range of topics, including philosophy, history, literature, religion, art, music, language, and more. Although there is no clear-cut definition of what the humanities are, it can be defined as the study and application of people, particularly relating to heritage, tradition, culture, and language. This is just one of many explanations for what the humanities is, however, and this vast topic is ever-expanding on what it entails.
Why is it just as important as STEM?
Believe it or not, many people in STEM fields believe the humanities are extremely useful to their work, and top schools such as MIT and Stanford have highlighted the importance of these studies as well (which we’ll be expanding on in further articles). But you might be wondering why this field is so important—what does it bring to the realm of STEM?
Well, this series of articles will help answer those questions for you. We’ll begin in this article by examining the difference between STEM and the humanities—in one, you are given all the answers to the specifics of why things are the way they are, but in the other, you search for answers that may or may not exist. The study of the humanities is not as straightforward as STEM courses most of the time, because human nature is not straightforward. For this reason, people have found that it’s difficult to do their jobs without a little background in the humanities, because after all, how can we live in a society without knowing about society?
Employees at Quora and Pinterest, for example, have explained that without some background knowledge on how society functions, they could not have created these successful media platforms. Uber also states that they hired psychologists to help them understand what to do about dissatisfied customers and English majors to help them pitch their ideas to the public.
It’s often important to know the history of certain professions as well, so that we can learn from that history. If historians aren’t around to help us research and remember mistakes we’ve made in the past, how can we ensure that society will ever move forward?
Overall, we can see that studying these subjects is important, despite what our education systems lead us to believe, and throughout the next few articles, we will be taking a closer look at why the humanities are so important today.
“The Future of the Liberal Arts: Report.” Universities Canada, www.univcan.ca/the-future-of-the-liberal-arts-report/.
Horgan, John. “Why STEM Students Need Humanities Courses.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 16 Aug. 2018, blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/why-stem-students-need-humanities-courses/.
Liu, Alan. “What Is the Humanities?” 4Humanities, 21 Dec. 2014, 4humanities.org/2014/12/what-are-the-humanities/.
“Why Do the Humanities Matter?” Stanford Humanities, 3 June 2015, shc.stanford.edu/why-do-humanities-matter.
Strauss, Valerie. “Analysis | Why We Still Need to Study the Humanities in a STEM World.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/10/18/why-we-still-need-to-study-the-humanities-in-a-stem-world/.
“Why ‘Worthless’ Humanities Degrees May Set You up for Life.” BBC Worklife, BBC, www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190401-why-worthless-humanities-degrees-may-set-you-up-for-life.