The Liberal Arts Are Overhated
BY ISABELLA HILL '25
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education invested $540 million into STEM programs, and universities around the country are cutting humanities classes—primarily English, history, and psychology. The irony? The humanities are the backbone of all careers. Critical thinking and writing skills are necessary for marketing and selling products, making lab reports, and connecting with clients, and the list goes on. However, in today’s day and age, the liberal arts are undervalued and deemed archaic. When society does not support the humanities to the same extent as STEM programs, whether ideationally or financially, the next generation will lack the necessities for any field or career: communication, critical thinking, and analytical perspectives. Further, when society pushes only one gender toward STEM fields instead of advocating for diversity in all jobs, it fails to acknowledge the importance of representation in all fields.
The humanities are often the punchline in jokes about student debt and unemployment, yet these fields are crucial to all aspects of life. With higher costs of living, society values high-paying jobs, and many believe that STEM fields hold more security while the humanities are fruitless pursuits that are better suited to be hobbies than careers. To illustrate, many universities are starting to notice a decline in humanities students. According to CNBC, universities have been defunding liberal arts programs for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated financial issues and accelerated major budget cuts. Iowa State University announced cuts of $15 million by 2026 in their College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which, according to The Gazette, has “disproportionately affected programs like history, which saw cuts of over $950,000, compared to computer science, which only saw cuts of around $68,000.” Even in science fields, writing is essential when creating help guides, relaying information, conveying ideas, and sharing technical data with coworkers. However, the media focuses on computer science jobs solely as jobs that are the highest paying offer the most security while failing to recognize writing’s role in the career. Anthony Lopez, a professor at Washington State University, argues that, “[people often believe that an] undergraduate degree in liberal arts is not a very valuable commodity because….you [can’t] go and start working for Google or…for IBM right out of college.” While liberal arts programs may not be the most profitable options for students right out of college, they provide valuable critical thinking skills that enhance job opportunities. Additionally, in terms of the hiring process, employers generally recognize that someone with good writing skills is more likely to be a critical thinker who knows how to organize information, make good decisions, and problem-solve, according to Grand Canyon University. Ultimately, communication and analytical thinking skills are the frameworks for society; writing facilitates coworker collaborations and interpersonal interactions between clients and sellers, provides a way for people to tell the stories of marginalized populations, and enables people to articulate their ideas.
In a world with discrimination and injustice, the humanities voice protest, educate, and inspire change. Author and lecturer Rachel Cargle works to educate people about racial injustice and feminism. Her background in the humanities enabled her to develop the “Great Unlearn,” an online learning platform that inspires change and promotes inclusivity.
Achieving true inclusivity requires acknowledging the importance of having women in STEM and all fields. While STEM is male-dominated, the push for women to enter these careers is ridiculously inflated. Articulate female political leaders and lawyers are just as necessary in an equitable society, and people should advocate for women to take leadership roles in any male-dominated field. Instead of chanting “women in STEM,” people should advocate for female representation in all jobs. There are real-world benefits to representation as well: a recent Gallup study found that gender-diverse businesses have higher average revenue than less diverse businesses. Additionally, according to the Center for Creative Leadership’s survey, when a higher percentage of women are in the workforce, more people experience job satisfaction, organization, meaningful work, and less burnout. However, the humanities are often considered feminine areas of work, and in an attempt to counter this generalization, many advocate for women going into STEM fields. Although women working in STEM fields defy sexist expectations for women, women excelling in any field is a step toward eroding decade-old stereotypes about women being intellectually inferior to men.
Humanities should be equally promoted and valued as STEM programs: the fields complement each other, and the skills from both are transferable and valuable in all aspects of life. To recognize the importance of liberal arts fields, schools should reinvest in their humanities departments and encourage students to freely explore any field that interests them. Ultimately, society needs to place an equal emphasis on STEM fields and the humanities to recognize how the liberal arts impact all career paths.