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The Major Divide: Humanities vs. STEM Majors

02/03/2015 10:09 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

"Oh the humanity!" The popularity of Humanities majors is declining. Recent studies have found that the percentage of students earning degrees in this field is lower than it has been in previous years. What is to blame?

We live in a country that is confident. America is an international superpower, so America must be one of the most innovative and educated countries, right? Unfortunately, we are not. According to a 2012 study, the United States is suffering from low standards of education, especially in math and science, compared to other nations. Our nation's recent acceptance of these low standings in education and innovation has placed a pressure on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors; even Obama is endorsing these career pursuits.

College students these days live in a society and economy that demand modernization and technological advances. As a nation we are competing with countries that have an edge in these fields that we do not possess. The job market is being exported, and in this modern-industrial age there is a societal pressure to keep up, to have a skill in the STEM realm. However, while our nation is in need of another great wave of science and innovation, this national obsession has had an effect on the pursuits of Liberal Arts and Humanities.

These days, it is difficult to see an advantage in majors that fall under this umbrella. When I tell people that I am an intended English major, the usual reaction is, "Are you going to be a teacher?" or, "Why did you go to Berkeley for that?" Humanities majors are at the butt of the career jokes. To most, a degree in Liberal Arts or Humanities is a wasted piece of paper and a job at a fast-food chain. This could not be further from the truth. There are strengths and advantages that a degree in fields such as History, Linguistics, and Political Science hold that STEM degrees do not. Humanities majors encourage analysis, critical-thinking, and a vast knowledge of various topics. These majors look deeper into varied texts that affect media, culture, society, literature, and politics. It is not the major specification that is applied in the workforce, but it is the work ethic and skills that are gained in earning the degree. English majors work well with close readings and analysis, as well as grammar and writing, which can be applied to media professions, law, business, creative professions, and politics. If our country focuses only on the drive to be a technologically advanced nation, our culture and society will follow in suit. We need the Humanities majors to run our schools, social services, and political centers. Who will write future great films and literature? Where does art come into play in a STEM filled world? Engineers do not fit at the UN table.

While this is a dramatic view of the disintegration of Humanities, it does allow for a different perspective. What would this nation be without the pursuit of knowledge in these topics? It is easy to push aside the old and make way for the new, but when there is enough room for both, whom do we hurt? STEM majors are very valuable to our society and foundation as a nation, but our current obsession with them will lead to a pool of laborers in a modern workforce that all serve the same function.

An apparent myth is leading many millenials to believe that specific degrees guarantee income and job security. While there is research to support certain career paths that are profitable, no graph or survey can determine your future. Every individual is just that, an individual. You define yourself by the work and advantages that you bring to the table. Not every Software Engineer is successful, and not every Philosophy major is unemployed. One's major does not define one's future.