STEM Vs Humanities: Which Is More Important?

Adkins, Staff Writer

In SCASD, children are given a wide variety of educational options and opportunities. In just elementary school, students can participate in a few “clubs,” take art and music classes, and use their creativity to complete classroom assignments. If you visit any one of SCASD’s school websites, you see pictures of kids in band, next to crafts they made themselves or interacting with a teacher. This is what the district wants people to view them as. An environment with opportunities. However, are they giving students opportunities in the right places?

STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The subjects that are rapidly becoming even more important than they were before. And the humanities subjects. English, the arts, foreign languages, history, and many others. Most classes students take, no matter where they are, fall under either the STEM category or the humanities category. However, Americans love nothing more than a good old-fashioned fight, and this is no exception. Should one be valued over the other? 

“I feel humanities classes matter more than STEM ones, because STEM mostly revolves around technology in many different forms, while humanities revolve around people,” freshman Isabella Davis said. “I feel as though currently, the technology is pretty advanced and while developing more technology and learning about Science, Engineering, Mathematics [is] important, humanities is more severe and has a larger need.”  

Not everyone feels the same way, though.

“Personally, I value them equally, because I see it all as free knowledge that I can learn and take in,” sophomore Cameron Trust said. “But, I think it depends on which career choice you plan on going into. If you’re going into a certain career, you should probably focus more in the classes that pertain to it.”

Kids aren’t the only ones who are affected by whether STEM or humanities classes are prioritized. Their educators are too, as they’re the ones who have to teach.

“I think an ideal model is even prioritization [in] K-8. In high school, I think it’s best for students to have room to lean more towards their interests and strengths,” said Danielle Crowe, the State College Area High School Director of Art. “This can be really tricky as the biggest (most expensive) resource pieces for the school to manage are staffing and facilities. Those two things can’t be rebalanced very quickly when the level of student interest shifts. Maybe the only way to make it reasonable is to keep resources even throughout.”

Which will logically be more useful, regardless of what students think? STEM is the answer to that. Our world is being digitized; people are depending more and more on phones and computers. For an American child to properly participate in their world, they will need at least basic technological knowledge. Hence technology education classes, which are required in both of SCASD’s middle schools. Science explains existence in a way even philosophy, which belongs in the humanities category, can’t. Math is the basis of everything, similarly to science. But this is logic. At the same time, as with every situation, what is best for certain people may not be logical. Because people are unique, and not everyone will follow a mathematical equation, no matter how “logical” it seems. 

“After a lot of thought, I’m thinking I’ll probably go into a humanities career,” Trust said. “Probably something history-related, because they do say that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Should students like Trust have their options limited because STEM will prove more useful to most people? The answer is no. Park Forest Middle School’s slogan is “every student, every day.” Students who do not plan to go into a STEM career should have equal access to humanities options. We can’t have an entire generation of people only educated in STEM as well. Because, as Trust articulated, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Humanities careers bring light to people’s lives. They work to make life, which is science, technology, engineering, and math, worth it. They let people show different viewpoints. Famous books, movies, and songs of countries and places all create culture. They emphasize the human aspect of things and are as much a part of our world as gravity or the ocean. 

Opportunities for students to pursue both categories of subjects are needed for a functioning society. One should not be prioritized over the other. But does SCASD reflect this? High school students of State High are offered with a wide variety of options, as indicated by the 2021 Course Guide for students. Though humanities electives are more limited for freshman and sophomores, juniors and seniors are presented with an array of choices.

“I believe that nationally, STEM classes are prioritized based on the notion that these are the areas we need to bulk up our workforce and keep up internationally. Ironically, art, design, literature, and music are often described as the US’ last great exports. I should note that locally, I think our school district does an above-average job balancing STEM and Humanities,” Crowe said.