Humanities’ Connection With STEM
“Oh, so you want to go into art? Unless you end up famous, you’re never going to make a career out of it”. “Why don’t you go into engineering or accounting like your aunt? At least you’ll have a stable job.” I get these comments a lot. I am in an arts program, but am constantly told that I should pursue a career in the STEM fields (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and math) or business instead. Because at least those are profitable. But, why? Profits and job security aside, art has its benefits. As an artist, I can make abstract emotions visible and tangible so that anyone—even those in the STEM and business fields— can understand more about what it means to be human. And it’s not just the visual arts. This is also true for literature, or history, or music: basically, anything that can fit into the broad field that we call the Humanities. People who have studied the humanities know more than just their field. They know how to express, understand, and help others. They teach us reason, and challenge us to see the world through different perspectives. These are skills that even scientists, engineers, or businessmen need in order to excel in their fields. Therefore, while pursuing the humanities in the modern day does not guarantee a successful career, it can help us understand others through their languages, histories, and cultures, while simultaneously teaching us to deal critically and humanely with problems and information.
Evidently, since many successful businesses are international, having the ability to speak multiple languages could potentially provide access to broader opportunities. It builds a stronger connection with the client—as struggling to communicate can often be frustrating. Multilingualism not only benefits businesses, but also other careers. For instance, a doctor who can speak the patient’s language could execute a more accurate diagnosis, because the factor of communication isn’t lost. This could be beneficial long-term, as it could reduce the amount of error in the long run. According to Leonardo de Valoes, an adjunct faculty member at Trinity Washington University, “in order to prepare our nation’s children to be the next generation of future entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, engineers, or whatever influential job they choose, we must foster an environment from a young age that promotes multilingual learning” (Valoes 2014). Although no-one is going to dispute the importance of learning new languages in a globalized world, we must also remember that language courses in universities are taught as part of the humanities. Cutting out humanities-related courses will undoubtedly prove disadvantages to not only future generations, but to the future economy as a whole.
Furthermore, understanding the histories of different cultures and groups of people are also significant for any career (including STEM). To realize the kind of people you’re dealing with and to be critically aware of their psychology will help you deal with any information or problems that may arise. For example, a doctor who doesn’t realize that poverty is a long-term effect of slavery and racism risks prescribing medicine to a black patient that they can’t afford. The last thing a doctor wants is to be unable to treat a patient. Looking at business, there is marketing. How would one broadcast or advertise to someone if they don’t understand where they come from, or where their beliefs lie? A platform could have the most colourful, structured, unique site, but if the content doesn’t connect to the users, it will not be successful. Understanding different histories and knowing how to use it for businesses could be all the difference of having a hit or miss company.
Additionally, possessing the knowledge of different cultures—past and present—can make a great difference in how you connect with a customer. Take China, for instance: connections are everything. If someone enjoys a service, a positive word can spread like wildfire. Olejarz talks about this in his article “Liberal Arts in the Data Age”, using the example of luxury car brands that are popular in China, such as BMW and Mercedes (Olejarz 2017). They were known as “luxury cars,” because these cars were often viewed as social spots rather than a vehicle and since China is the most populated country in the world, industries are crawling all over trying to catch the attention of the Chinese. Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, understood that these citizens cared more about the interior design and social gatherings more than the actual features of the car, and so they centralized their advertisements to this trend. Sales skyrocketed and it was all a matter of understanding who they were catering for.
The importance of the humanities in everyday life are obviously beneficial and omitting these programs and replacing them with STEM activities will do more harm than good. What’s the point of having a well-calculated mind if you aren’t well-rounded? Being able to connect and understand others is the key to success in any industry. Humanities aren’t a waste of time, because these programs create individuals who will learn how to think empathetically about careers outside the humanities and could benefit them in a potential STEM career. If we all possess the same minds and approach problems the same way, we are at a great disadvantage because there would be no room for innovation.
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