“Sciences rakho bohot scope hai”, a phrase I’ve heard so many times it’s almost painful, but also one which highlights a very deeply engraved problem within our society. The study of the Liberal Arts and Humanities is not only discouraged but looked down upon. In many cases, students deciding to pursue these subjects are not only considered inferior to those studying the much preferred STEM subjects but may even, in extreme cases, be forced to opt for Sciences instead, mainly due to parental or societal pressure. So, if you’re one of those unlucky souls who was forced to study Kinematics instead of the Napoleonic Wars, I apologize on behalf of our society.
“Medical mein Jana hai?”
“Acha tou phir karna kia hai apni zindagi ke saath?”
This scenario — which I’m certain many reading could relate to — is deeply entrenched within the societal concept that there cannot be a well reputed profession besides these two while the other is either just afraid to express their actual passion in fear of sounding “disgraceful” or doesn’t know anything besides what not to do with their lives.
Now, being a Science student myself in O-Level, I’ve witnessed just how lowly the Arts and Humanities are considered. I very sadly still remember many instances of our Science teachers telling students who failed their tests about how they would’ve been better off studying “easier subjects like Economics,” and if I’m being honest, while I wasn’t fond of any of the Science subjects I was studying, I still had this utterly nonsensical and toxic mentality that “at least I’m studying subjects which are worth it.”
As it turns out, this was just…dumb thinking. Entering A-Level, having no clear sight of which direction I wanted to take with my life, I initially took the Sciences (Kyunke phir kuch na kuch tou ban jaye ga). However, after sitting through a few Sociology classes (partly due to my elder sibling’s advice), I ended up genuinely enjoying my studies for the first time and just on that basis, I ended up completely switching to humanities. I had a constant fear of future regret, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ll probably ever make.
The point of this anecdote is that sometimes a person’s ambitions and passions collide with the norms and interests of society. However, submitting to those norms is probably the last thing you would want to do for your own individual success and well-being.
If you’re a humanities student, stressing about academics is almost taboo, especially when taking these subjects is considered “the easy way out” and because at least one STEM intellectual will remark on how you can get grades by just ‘cramming’ everything (if this was true I wouldn’t have borderline failed my first History test). I’m not trying to say that all Science students are spawns of Satan but it’s a generalization of how our society looks down on these subjects and how it may negatively impact the students and their mentality as well.
“What will you even achieve by studying this?” is a question often thrown at humanities students and such degrading remarks towards what you’re studying can often even lead a student to question their own choices because at the end of the day, the education system is built to create more workers to be exploited by the capitalist system and the actual purpose, attaining knowledge is far forgotten (yes I take Sociology, yes I am cool). Now, to answer such a question, you could either start listing all the many jobs that these subjects lead you to or you could simply say “it’s fun talking about Marxism and all the different bad-ass terms knowing what they actually mean,” or you could ask them about their favorite book or TV show and remind them about how they came to fruition thanks to the studies of the humanities and arts.
Okay, but while I could go on and on about the strengths that you could garner from learning these subjects, we need to remind ourselves that the STEM and Humanities are not mutually exclusive; they are stronger together and both encourage innovation and critical thinking. In fact, studies show that some employers prefer applicants with a liberal arts background (yes I hated on the system literally a paragraph ago but we must come face-to-face with the economic reality one day or another). So, instead of putting them into competition with one another and instead of degrading one as an inferior form of study, maybe we should learn to accept differences and strive towards attaining all the knowledge we can possibly attain.
Hassan Saeed Khan