STEM majors are overrated.
And before anyone argues that I’m just a non-STEM major complaining about some injustice, I would like to say that unfortunately your argument is invalid — I am a STEM major myself.
Like many in my field, I enjoy the benefits and privileges that come with being a STEM major, I definitely won’t deny that. At family gatherings and events, I don’t fear questions of what my major is or what I want to do in the future, since to many, being a biology major with plans of becoming a pediatrician is already impressive enough.
Even before coming to college, I was already experiencing the positives of being a STEM major. My financial aid to UR included a hefty scholarship because I was a woman in STEM. I can go on and on about the good things about being in STEM. Regrettably, the list of positives is much shorter for those who are not in STEM.
But why? What makes humanities and social science majors lesser than STEM majors? If you really think about it, nothing. Yes, some of you will argue that STEM should deserve the recognition it is receiving because STEM classes are so much harder. Writing an English essay is nothing like writing a 20-page lab report, right? Right, but not in the way you think, so you can stop gloating. An English essay is very different from a lab report, but that doesn’t make the process of creating a good essay easier than writing a good lab report.
The same concept applies to classes. As biology majors, we are required to read and analyze long research papers, which is difficult. But guess who also does that? English and political science majors. Each class has its own kind of difficulty, regardless of whether it is a STEM class.
We do not have the right to compare these majors to one another as they demand different knowledge and skills from the student. While topics such as coding might seem difficult to STEM students, non-STEM students have to face similar problems in learning material such as the International Phonetics Alphabet. STEM majors complain about the massive amount of information that they must memorize, but have they ever thought about how much information some humanities majors have to memorize? Those who study history must remember thousands of years’ worth of events, and psychology majors must memorize hundreds of illnesses and theories.
As STEM majors, we can’t really say that our field of study is harder if we haven’t experienced the struggles of other majors ourselves.
Women in STEM is also a highly celebrated group. I am not trying to sound ungrateful for my scholarship. I appreciate it, I truly do. But why are only women in STEM being praised? I understand a reason behind this is that women were barred from science majors in the past. However, women in the past were barred from most majors. At one point, women weren’t able to go to college at all; by that logic, we should celebrate women in all majors, not just those in STEM, because a woman in any major is worth celebrating.
Furthermore, our bias against non-STEM majors is creating an imbalance in our society and workforce. Since the Great Recession, the number of STEM majors in 2015 has increased by an astounding 43 percent, while humanities degrees have declined 0.4 percent. In 2005, the number of STEM and humanities degrees were almost even, but within 10 years the gap between the two fields has become almost irremediable. This pedestal that we have placed STEM majors on has caused many students to feel obligated to choose a STEM major to feel respected, despite the possibility that they have absolutely no interest in science.
In addition, after talking to some friends, I realized that our preference for STEM majors has caused individuals in other fields to be embarrassed about what they are studying. They are told that they chose the humanities because they aren’t smart enough to pursue STEM. Why should someone have to be embarrassed about something they are interested in and good at?
Jobs that require humanities and social science majors may not be as glamorous or respected as those that require STEM; but like a play, the director is just as important as the actor. We praise doctors who perform daring surgeries to save lives, but what about those who work in the public health system? A single public health intervention can save millions of lives, but public health experts don’t get the status of achievement that doctors do. Teachers are some of the most underpaid people in the country, but they are who often inspire students at a young age to become STEM majors. Many of the non-STEM majors that we tend to look down upon not only make up the support systems of many STEM majors but also contribute just as much to society, maybe even more.
Non-STEM majors out there, be confident and hold your head up high — you are just as important.