The decline in the study of the humanities continues to be a problem, specifically in American higher education. According to Willard Dix, “…to prioritize departments that pay over those that may be elemental (English, history, philosophy, for example) but not ‘profitable,’ is wrongheaded in the long run.”
The Trouble with STEM
Schools certainly should keep their programs updated to fit the times. STEM fields–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–are incredibly valuable in order to have a better understanding of humanity. They help society find ways to adapt and improve. Moreover, these fields have become accessible to everyone, not just men working towards their vocation.
However, a major “theme” found in research done on schools defunding the humanities is administrators misjudging students’ needs. School administrators assume that a student’s major will dictate his or her whole career. In most cases, this is not correct. Students switch majors constantly, and even then, many students do not work in the field they primarily studied.
In addition, many students that major in business, marketing, and finance or STEM lack many basic skills when they enter the job force. Debra Satz, dean of Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences, commented on this in a recent statement made to the Atlantic. “What I care about is that every student in engineering can think critically, can read carefully, and they can listen empathetically. That happens by taking courses in the humanities.”
Turning Things Around
Unfortunately, many schools have had to acknowledge that students are less likely to pursue humanities majors. This is a bigger problem at state colleges or universities. Studies done by Emsi shows that students attending state schools were much more likely to pursue a STEM or business major rather than the humanities and liberal arts. It is more difficult for many parochial and private institutions to pump out STEM drones like the big state schools. These schools typically don’t receive the same amount of government funding.
However, educators are really trying to push the importance of the humanities courses. A study done by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences found that, “When it comes to measures of career satisfaction, humanities grads are as satisfied as those who majored in STEM.” The study mentioned that they are generally more content with their careers and the amount of money that they make.
This should not be a big surprise. After all, the humanities teach students the basic critical thinking and communication skills needed in any job. Hopefully, more institutions will recognize this key fact and keep humanities courses at the heart of our educational system.