Humanities and fine arts: not a lost cause

Selena McPherson/The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.

Selena McPherson/The News

Selena McPherson/The News

Matt Bevin:

  • Governor of Kentucky
  • Conservative Republican
  • Military veteran
  • Small business owner
  • Husband and father
  • Graduate of Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts college
  • Possessor of a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree
  • Public cynic of humanities and fine arts degrees
  • Hypocrite

His campaign slogan?

“Together, we can give Kentucky a brighter future.”

However, apparently our future will only be bright if more funding and incentives are given to aspects of higher education focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career fields, according to the budget proposal speech he gave on Jan. 26.

You seem to have forgotten your roots, Governor. You may not be utilizing your BA degree in East Asian Studies, which is fine and statistically-common (see below), but that is no reason to use your position of power to publicly discourage the pursuit of a humanities/fine arts major.

According to Forbes, only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major or degree. This is mostly due to the fact that, also according to Forbes, 93 percent of employers value communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills over a candidate’s specific undergraduate degree – all skills humanities and fine arts majors hone in college.

Yes, this may mean that those with degrees in humanities and fine arts aren’t using them in a directly-related career – but don’t get your hopes up, Governor. Said degrees are often sought after by recruiters in the very career fields you’re placing your hopes and funding in – STEM careers.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2010 medical schools accepted 51 percent of humanities majors and 45 percent of social science majors who applied.

Also, according to Forbes, “Throughout the major U.S. tech hubs, whether Silicon Valley or Seattle, Boston or Austin, (Texas), software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.”

Uh oh, Governor – it looks like the prodigal majors are fraternizing with the enemy, and for good reason.

Despite the statistics and findings that state those with STEM careers are more successful and content than those with humanities and fine arts careers, there are equal amounts of studies that negate those findings.

Study after study, report after report and finding after finding state one implicit truth: employers want well-rounded candidates.

Catherine Weinberger, economist at UC Santa Barbara, said employees with strong, balanced social and math skills earn roughly 10 percent more than people skilled in just one area.

Following that train of statistically-grounded thinking, it might be unwise to put all your eggs (funding) into one basket (career-track).

So, not only have we busted the myth that engineers and mathematicians unequivocally make more money, but there are also studies that show people in these careers aren’t always the most satisfied with their lives.

According to Career Bliss, 60 percent of “The Happiest Jobs in America” don’t fall within STEM career fields.

Man, with all these facts and figures about the benefits of a liberal arts degree, we’ve forgotten what the original argument was.

STEM degrees are more valuable than humanities and fine arts degrees, wasn’t it, Governor?

Think again: maybe they can, in fact, work together.