Asian Parents Aren’t the Only People who Think Humanities and Social Sciences are Useless

Because Florida Republicans have converted to that mindset. Or at least Florida governor Rick Scott did.

The governor recently stated in an interview about how college students need to focus more on subjects dealing with science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) instead of less “practical” subjects – which pretty much by definition would include anything in the Humanities or Social Sciences. Okay, fair enough. I strongly disagree with that, but I consider it a legitimate (if misguided) idea. However, he went a bit further, with Anthropology as his choice (of all the wonderful non-STEM subjects) for lashing:

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

He added in a later interview:

“It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here.”

The backlash from Anthropologists, particularly those in Florida, was intense, and justifiably so. The governor, so it seems, holds an erroneous, stereotypical idea of Anthropology that most of us also hold: that Anthropology is a subject concerned with only studying isolated tribes in the middle of some jungle. Most of us who have had exposure to Anthropology know better. Anthropologists have found employment in various places – including international corporations, the government, ICT companies, the military, and so forth – where their knowledge of culture and society are needed. Surprising as it is to some, Anthropologists study people – regardless of whether they are from the Bagwere tribe of Uganda, downtown Chicago, business settings in New York, or an Iraqi village near a US army base. The field is far from useless, especially with the advent of so-called globalization. But I won’t really rant too much about that here; if you want to read more, go search google (although two articles (here and here) are good places to start). Or, heck, just talk to an actual anthropologist.

Governor Scott’s sentiments are nothing new for us Asians. Stereotypically, Asian parents have always had distaste for the Humanities and Social Sciences. However, I find it a dangerous mindset. The only degree that can guarantee you a job is either a medical or engineering degree, right? I admit it’s probably true. Statistically, apparently, those who major in STEM or economics/finance/business tend to have higher starting salaries and are blessed with better job demand. Fair enough. But here is what I think is a problem.

Not everyone can or should get STEM. Imagine the problems that would happen if 90% of graduates got STEM degrees. Or, heck, even if 50% of graduates got STEM degrees, that still poses a big problem. I simply don’t think employers are looking for that many people. Alright, I admit I don’t have the statistics for this, but I think my point still stands. It is impossible to have so many jobs available for just a select amount of sectors.

And furthermore, there is a need for people in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Because those majors teach you to analyze and study people, their behavior, and their attitudes. And that’s important, frankly, because, cliché as it sounds, humans are social animals. Some types of jobs and careers simply demand people who might not necessarily know as much about STEM subjects. As an example: who would you trust in dealing with intense international negotiations – an Engineering major or a Political Science major? Honestly I’d trust neither, but I’ll be more willing to place my bets that a PoliSci major has more knowledge about how to conduct international relations.

I love Western-style freedoms.