THE BLOG
01/08/2015 11:20 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2015

In Our Efforts to Promote STEM, Have We Isolated the Humanities?

"Genius" is one of the anomalous terms allotted for the elite intellectual few. In a non-traditional sense, it may be interpreted as a Wikipedia page that requires endless scrolling to read the person's achievement, perhaps being the envy of your Advanced Geometry Class or achieving a high IQ or SAT Score. There are many definitions of the word: scientific, mathematic, literary, artistic genius -- the canvas for "genius" is infinite, yet so incredibly narrowed.

"Mathematic genius" flows off the tongue with more ease, and thus has a more positive connotation, than "literary genius." It is merely a result of connotation that we have allowed these words to be imbued with, not their innate definition, that paints one better than the other. While the arts certainly have not been cast into oblivion, they have appeared to be set aside to make room for STEM related studies.

A recent desire to promote STEM studies and careers has furthered the growing schism among intelligence, desire and the onus of "practicality" STEM careers bear. This onus of practicality poses destruction; love of the practical does not have to eliminate the idealist.

The arbitrator of practicality must be assessed: Who is the arbitrator of practicality? There is a marked difference in believing in and wanting to ride the unicorn and admiring its mythical features: one is crazy, the other, "romantically practical." The voices of the rigidly "practical," misconstrue happiness with the financially sound. The desire to start an early interest in STEM related studies curtails the time allotted to truly enjoy the wide spectrum of both STEM and fields in the humanities.

High school, the breeding ground for curiosity, knowledge and growth in academia is subject to the elitist tendencies of adolescence. The rationale of "when am I ever going to use this word" is second to the general rationale of all academia, "when am I ever going to use this?" As a high school student I have observed the latter phrase accompanied by statements professing the child's desire to be a doctor or nurse, seldom allowing enough time for the acerbic pang of their statement to mingle with the contradicting nature of their next remark: that they cut corners by reading assigned books through SparkNotes so they can study all night for a chemistry test -- the logic is clear and inscribed on teenage minds. The lukewarm complacency in which some STEM careers are met with convey the rootedness in the name, rather than the practice, the financial merit, rather than enjoyment of the process. We are governed by a displaced sense of practicality that transforms into apathy.

Interest in STEM has also sparked an unprecedented nexus in educational and collegiate programs that seek to promote STEM as a viable career option, particularly geared at women, who occupy 24 percent of STEM careers combined. Although the idea seeks to promote gender equality and is fundamentally good, the preoccupation with promoting gender equality in primarily STEM related fields is disconcerting. When the figures are racked up, women represent 14.6 percent of executive officers, 16 percent make up writers, directors and film producers, 45.4 percent are associates in the legal field, and other added (comparatively) low numbers.

The lack of women in particular fields, and their comparatively low pay in relation to men, segues into a seemingly fundamental ideal grounded in common sense: all careers are necessary for our livelihood: both STEM and humanities alike. To promote one over the other is foolish and harmful. Algebra, chemistry, philosophy, history---there is need for a balance.