Point-Counterpoint: Is education in the humanities still important in today’s society?

Yes:

Not only are the humanities still valuable in today’s society, but they are more important than ever before. Yes, we need science and technology to create medical breakthroughs and to better understand our environment, but after we’ve created that new cancer treatment or crafted a huge and expensive spaceship, how do we explain to others the significance of our accomplishments? How, in an effort to motivate the public to build upon our work or use it to improve society, do we get them to understand that the new drug we’ve created will save millions of lives or that space exploration will bring back much-needed resources on Earth? That’s where the humanities come in.

 

The humanities are essential for society to function. Our English classes teach us how to form coherent thoughts and communicate them with others. Equally important, history shows us the broad patterns, changes, and continuities throughout time that will help us prepare for what’s to come in the future. The knowledge and skill sets we gain from the humanities allow us to communicate effectively with others and teach us how to deal with problems that aren’t found in our physics or math textbooks. The humanities facilitate critical and deep thinking which are important because they help people avoid oversimplifying certain issues and develop opinions that could offend others and lead to conflict.

Furthermore, the humanities shape well-informed and engaged citizens that are imperative for the continued success of a democracy like ours. Without knowledge of our government, of the world around us, or of how to even present our opinions, we would be unable to understand the motives of our representatives, whether they are in support of our interests or not, and our democracy would crumble, leading to the rise of despotism and totalitarian rule.

Science and math frequently deal with strictly factual information, while the humanities encourage more creativity. Because of the abundant and rapid developments occurring in STEM fields right now, creativity in finding new solutions is valued more than ever. It’s essential for people to be globally interconnected. The humanities help us do this by teaching how to understand the viewpoints of other people and learn about other people’s cultures and languages, which is especially important to maintain connections across cultures. Our language courses not only allow us to communicate with more people, but also give us a deeper understanding of the diverse world we live in. Moreover, 60 percent of CEOs surveyed in the U.S. in 2012 had a degree in the humanities, which clearly speaks to the fact that humans are social creatures, and without these skills, it would be difficult for a person to succeed in any field.

No one doubts the importance of STEM. However, to say that STEM is all we need for the future would be incorrect. It is difficult to imagine a society without the arts, languages, and literature, since these are ultimately the things that give life to it. Neither the humanities nor STEM is more important than the other, and both should be given equal respect and representation in education in order to ensure students’ success.

Nikhila Kumar and Emily Yao

Class of 2021 and Class of 2020

 

No: 

Ever since art and English teachers started to lump art in the category of science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM teachers and art teachers have fought over which group of subjects is more important. But how does an advanced understanding of the histories of ancient civilizations contribute to our lives? Realistically, most people don’t write lengthy essays or draft foreign policy each day.

At the core of STEM subjects is the ability to apply highly complex concepts to simple life tasks. Many high schoolers take a calculus course by the time they graduate. Many students claim that the intricacies of calculus don’t apply to daily life. However, calculus boils down to studying the rate of change. Differential calculus is particularly important for evaluating how slowly or quickly a model is changing. According to the Mathematics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calculus allows for relatively complicated models to be simplified into “relatively simple quantitative models of change…[and] their consequences.” Essentially, the specific ways of calculus reach into the lives of high schoolers by allowing them to break down life situations into models of change.

Students in the 21st century are more dependent on technology than ever before. The District has given its students, in sixth grade and above, Chromebooks. In a letter to students and parents at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, district administrators said that they “are providing a Chromebook to all students with the [goal] of…increased use of technology to enhance teacher instruction.” By giving each student a Chromebook, the technology department proves that students need to start preparing for the increased use of technology in education and business. In addition, all students are required to take Essential Computer Applications to graduate, while students can graduate without ever taking an art course. This high school is a local epitome of the importance of STEM subjects.

While STEM subjects stimulate the brain in everyday aspects, humanities focus on topics that do not positively affect our daily lives. For example, the grammar taught in high school classes leaves us as we walk out of English class. The ability to identify a verbal as an infinitive, gerund, or participle does not affect a conversation between two friends. Furthermore, students who fail to use words such as “as” and “than” as conjunctions can still successfully articulate a clear sentence and convey their messages. To this point, the ability for students to construct grammatically-sound sentences is a dying art that teaches useless and stuffy rules.

Although the humanities do have their uses for creativity and style, they are not nearly as important as world of STEM. Students should not be endlessly bogged down subjects that focus on irrelevant and advanced topics that do not contribute to everyday life, which is why the “A” should be left out of STEM.

Hunter Courtney

Class of 2020

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