In the recent decade, there’s been a gradual shift from the humanities toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). College students are increasingly choosing STEM based majors over humanities ones. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the number of bachelor’s degrees earned in humanities fields dropped 27% from 2012 to 2018.
Colleges and K-12 schools across the nation have been constantly cutting arts and humanities programs in favor of STEM based ones, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. College students nationwide are forced to deal with the consequences as their majors lose the necessary funding and resources to continue their education.
The main reason for a shift towards STEM based majors has to do with job prospects. In our current age of science and technology, it makes sense that STEM is being favored over the humanities in the job market. Reports have shown that entry-level jobs for STEM majors earn $10,000 to $30,000 more than humanities ones. While STEM majors are considered more valuable in the eyes of many school-loan-consumed college students, the humanities still hold social and educational significance and its decline in prevalence has deep implications on our society.
Whether it’s in education, cultural spaces or social activism, the humanities are expansive in their impact, thus impacting every corner of our society. Humanities subjects in schools teach empathy, analysis, difference of perspective and understanding, among many other skills. Reading literature and learning about history allows young people to memorialize the tragedies of the past and teach us lessons STEM subjects wouldn’t.
In cultural spaces, the humanities allow cultures to pass their heritage on to present-day descendents and extract valuable practices from their pasts. For example, many cultures have intricate languages and alphabets, stories that are passed down by word of mouth and artistic traditions that simply wouldn’t be covered in STEM.
Activists utilize art and poetry to convey their messages to audiences, crossing the divisions of language and culture. Everyone would be impacted by the loss of humanistic disciplines because it has a hold on every aspect of our society. Without the arts and humanities, numerous complex cultures and communities in our society would be lost.
It’s scary to think that the science-dominated societies we read about in dystopian literature could one day become true if the humanities continues to decline. But, there are still ways we can revive and reverse this decline.
For one, you can indulge in your passion for any humanistic interest you have, such as art, reading and history. This doesn’t have to result in changing your major, but simply changing your perspective on humanities subjects could be beneficial to society.
Another way to save the humanities is to support it locally, whether that’s buying art or literature, watching a theater production or donating to your favorite artist. UCI is home to many creative arts and humanities programs that produce and create different forms of art often that you can support. Cities nearby also host various arts and humanities programs such as the Laguna Beach Sawdust Art Festival or the Downtown Santa Ana Art Walk.
Additionally, advocating for nationwide or statewide legislation to save these subjects and fighting against cutbacks to arts and humanities programs in local school districts is helpful. While our individual changes may not produce immediate effects in society, together we can generate a collective effort and mindset toward saving the humanities.
We can’t forget the impact humanities have on society. The humanities saved us — and now we can save them.
Camelia Heins is an Opinion Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.