In Defence of the Arts and Humanities
I’m in my third year of doing an English with Creative Writing degree, and I don’t think I could find a degree I enjoy more if I tried. I’ve always loved books, writing my own stories, and discussing literature whether in a classroom or with family and friends. At school, I was that annoying kid who, when assigned to read the first chapter of the current class novel, went home and read the whole thing in one sitting. So going to university and choosing to have almost constantly to be reading or writing about books is basically the dream for me. However, there’s one part I don’t particularly enjoy: The part where I have to tell other people what I’m studying.
It sounds like a stupid thing to be worried about, but when you tell someone you study a degree in the Arts and Humanities, they usually aren’t very impressed and typically have one of two responses. The first is a question that I’ve been asked so many times it genuinely makes me want to scream, namely: “Oh, so do you want to be a teacher?”
Usually, I just laugh it off and say no, but sometimes I’m just annoyed enough to say: “No, I hate children.” People usually don’t know what to say to that and try to awkwardly laugh while I try to make it seem like I’m not some terrible witch who traps children in a gingerbread house.
The second response is the one I’ve received from close relatives, to friends, to taxi drivers, and (especially) fellow students and is along the lines of: “Oh so you don’t want to make any money then.” The particularly witty ones will switch it up and sometimes say: “Guess I’ll see you working at Starbucks then.” Never heard that one before, you comic genius.
As much as it annoys me, this is such a common mindset that you almost can’t complain about it. If you do, you’ll receive the super helpful answer: “Well, maybe you should study a real degree then.”
But you know what, it’s time to throw the concept of “real degrees” out the window. You’re not better than someone else purely based on the degree you study. Of course, degrees such as Business, Law, Medicine, Psychology, and any of the STEM degrees are important. Our society needs businesspeople, and lawyers, and doctors, and teachers, and engineers – but do you know what else our society needs? Art. And literature. And films. And music. Because without all those things, what are we? A society of mindless robots working and working until we die.
I think part of the reason the Arts and Humanities are so looked down on is because you can’t immediately go out and earn huge amounts of money with them – and maybe you never will – and in a society as driven by capitalism as ours that’s seen as something negative. Unfortunately, that’s something a lot of people will agree with, but Arts and Humanities contribute something more to our society than just money. They teach you how to look at the world around you with empathy, how to see beauty in the everyday – even how to articulate yourself as this Twitter user proved:
So yeah, maybe I will end up a penniless writer working in a job I hate until I get the big break that might never come. Or maybe I’ll be the next best-selling author, or award-winning screenwriter, or poet – because if all those people who wrote the films you like to watch, the books you like to read, and the music you like to listen to hadn’t studied the “pointless degrees” so many people look down on, then none of those things would exist. And sometimes doing things that make you happy are more important than earning a lot of money.