Today, boys and girls, I’m going to talk about STEM. No, not the long shaft-y part of a plant. I’m talking about Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. These are the four areas that my state government (Florida) and national government are pushing today’s young people towards. Currently being a part of the public higher education conglomerate and an English major I’m sure you can understand why this is a subject I am most keen to share my feelings on. To make it known from the get-go, I’m not hating on UCF. While there are plenty of related subjects I would love to discuss that involve UCF, this isn’t one of them. The only reason UCF is singled out here is because I obviously go there and so that’s where my experience stems from (pun 100% intended).
Over the past few years the acronym STEM has been soldered into my brain time and time again. And a discussion about STEM wouldn’t be complete unless the name Rick Scott was involved. He’s quite a gem of a governor.
He has been very vocal about his feelings towards STEM majors versus Arts and Humanities majors (particularly Anthropology which is hilarious if you know a little back story..look it up). Here’s a quote by Scott from the Central Florida Future back in 2011:
“Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t. I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out.” (Read the whole article here.)
I might understand his view if my higher education were free (heavy on the might). As it stands, my higher education is certainly not free. Even worse, the Arts & Humanities at UCF are put into one of the four oldest, dingiest buildings on campus, our teachers can’t afford to print out tests for us, our classes are offered occasionally at best so most people have to stay longer to graduate, and our professors get paid a minuscule amount compared to professors in STEM areas. I don’t even get a printed Dean’s List certificate because the department can’t afford to print it. The College of Sciences prints Dean’s List certificates on heavy paper and hands it to the student in a plastic sheet protector. I got an email congratulating me.
Now there’s talk of making all non-STEM degrees cost MORE than their STEM counterparts. Before it’s even suggested, the money would not go solely to the Arts & Humanities department which is the only way an idea like that would be valid. To get my English degree from the University of Central Florida I would have to pay MORE than my friend the Biology major. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
So if you’re poor during your college years (as most of us are) and you don’t have piggy banks for parents you will be forced into what? A STEM major. The choice would no longer be “What do you want to do with your life?” It would be “Can you afford to go to school for what you actually want to do?”
Rick Scott said that he wants funding to go to programs that get jobs. Here are my problems with that statement:
- In the Communication class I took last year, I was shown the results of a study that said communication/writing skills are the #1 skills employers are looking for. Knowledge in the field came after that.
- People with Arts & Humanities degrees get jobs in countless fields. It’s not all teacher, poets, and actors.
- Speaking of teachers, while there are hundreds of jobs you can get with an A&H degree, teaching is one of the most common. Yeah, I’m not going to get into this too much because I would probably never stop, but I will say that the day we realize how VITAL teachers are to our society will be the day that a lot of things change.
- Pièce de résistance: I don’t think it actually has anything to do with the jobs we will get after college. Here’s why:
(Note: I’m about to make a lot of generalities. I know generalities aren’t 100% correct but as the term “generalities” suggests, in general they are.)
It all has to do with power. We are supposed to be in control of our own government. You know who’s in charge of our government? Business people. They run the big companies (Haliburton, anyone?) that control mass amounts of revenue and are intricately snared with the government running our “free” society. Business and government are essentially the same thing with different names (we’ll call it bovernment). So who’s interests do you think the government has in mind? All the poor, lowly poets? No. Bovernment has their own interests at heart. That being the case, do you think they may want to spend tax dollars to fund their future progeny? What Statistics major is going to care or even notice when his tuition is less than other majors? I doubt he’d be hard pressed to get to the bottom of that mystery. So he’ll grow up, get educated, get a degree, get a job, and take his place as part-ruler of the country.
The A&H kids (I use kids loosely) are the ones who think. Not numbers and business strategies. We think. We see the world through a different lens. We can’t sit at a desk forever crunching numbers. We are out experiencing life and thinking about it. So why would it surprise anyone that the kids who think deeper and harder about the subjectives in life would be the ones that are being kept quiet, swept under the rug? We are removed from the big, bad government and that’s exactly how they want to keep it. It’s a vicious cycle of mathematical units parading as people being turned over from the big businesses, streamlined into government, and straight into a chair in Washington making decisions on how to direct funds for education.
If you enjoy math like I enjoy words, if you think finding out the exact function of the left side of the brain is the bee’s knees, if you go to sleep at night thinking about soil samples you collected that day then by all means please major in Math, Science, Engineering, or Technology. But don’t for one second think you can ever force me into a mold that fits the societal need. Because I am a lover of the arts. I am a thinker and a writer and a head-clearing-walk lover. I am not a puppet that can be manipulated or confused. And I will never be silent.