Liberal arts, STEM majors both deserve respect

Tristen McTasney, Staff Columnist

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When discussing my future career during my childhood, a common theme was the suggestion to “Make sure you study your math and science. That’s how you’re going to make money.” I suspect many others have experienced similar interactions at a young age. Once high school begins, and even into college, the norm trends toward business-related majors or, for those exceptionally intelligent or hardworking, engineering. I remember feeling like I had to study in one of these fields.

Still, there are 88 majors offered here and at most universities. Students still choose to study subjects like art or history and often receive negative comments about these choices. Most of us know someone who is majoring in art. We know at some point or another they’ve been told, “You know you won’t make any money doing that, right?” Admittedly, I’ve had similar thoughts and have even made a comment like this before myself.

Upon reflection, I’ve formed a different opinion about students majoring in art and similar majors. Art majors will be the main example used for the remainder of this column.

These students have heard these comments from everyone, including friends and family. They also know they will receive an odd look every time they talk about what they are studying. It simply isn’t the status quo in our society.

Yet, they still stick with their passions and choose these majors.

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that artists either become world famous or make no money at all. However, individuals with backgrounds in the arts can play countless roles in society, even in the business world, where some assume they have no place. Companies benefit greatly from designers who push to improve marketing campaigns or create company logos. Then, of course, there are those artists who use their talents to create and sell admirable pieces of art in the more traditional sense.

Additionally, art majors aren’t locked into any of these roles. Their majors have similar utility to other majors in the sense that they could end up working in a position largely unrelated to their major, but still have a prosperous career. This happens to individuals of all backgrounds, and the assumption that “artsy” majors are entirely different is ill-informed.

Regardless, let’s say they are on a track to study something obscure and then make “no money.” First of all, who cares? If you major in business and you think you have your entire life planned out, and that it will occur exactly as you foresee, then so be it. Carry out your path, but let others do the same. Someone else’s specialty can be different, and that is OK. Really, it’s ideal. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all majored in math or business – and this is coming from an accounting major.

Secondly, if someone knowingly faces this social backlash and still chooses to pursue what they are skillful at and feel strongly about, then that is to be respected. To take an uncommon, unglorified path by choice must be a hard decision. Academically, I live in the business world and can’t relate to this, but I’ve developed an admiration for those who live that life in spite of what others may say or think.

It’s good to see others follow what makes them happy and to do it for themselves. So live and let live.