My greatest fear when I was little was losing my creativity. I revered the Peter Pan movies. In the movies, the loss associated with growing up transfixed me, and I became determined not to suffer the loss that seemed inevitable. As a senior going on to major in Creative Writing, I feel a similar fear, but it is a fear of grappling with the doubt of others. I hate telling people my major because I receive the look of pity and doubt, I receive the “Oh,”, I receive the attitude that I am not being taken seriously. I should be used to the reaction. But I dread it and I feel the need to justify myself and I consider simplifying my response to English and I entertain doubt for a split second. After thirteen years in the public education system, I realize that the emphasis on STEM, while not bad in itself, repels students from other classes where they might succeed and forms an additional obstacle for those students: the disdain of others.
The primary goal of education is to prepare students for the future, therefore it makes sense to facilitate students towards jobs that are deemed the most important for society and jobs that have many openings. Doctors and scientists are indisputably important for society to function. However, if your skill does not lie in mathematics or science, you should be allowed to follow your talents without worry of receiving supercilious stares. People’s constant buzz of “Good luck with that”, “There’s a limited number of jobs there”, “That’s not practical” stems from their fear of instability. Unfortunately for anyone afraid of an uncertain future, the future is uncertain.
The public education system focuses heavily on grades which creates a fear of being wrong. In a system where you are given a lower score because you were wrong, it’s hard not to fear it. But the world is not black and white. In school, our rights are suspended, the grey areas are simplified, we get paid in grades for our work. How can school be preparing us for the real world if the school system is so far removed from the real world? How can school stress STEM and claim that it is for practical reasons when at least half of what we learn in school is inapplicable for our future careers? Everyone sitting in here has asked themselves at least once, “When will I actually use this?” And the bolder of us have actually asked the teachers that question only to be given the same response, “In college.” What about after college? Yes, college is a stepping stone to getting a higher-paying job, but if I was a struggling science student, I’m confident that I would chose a job where I would not need science. The problem is not school; it is the grade-centered, STEM focused direction of school that causes issues.
As AP students we are all practical, and I know that the majority of this room has been swayed from impractical interests into the sciences or engineering. While science and engineering careers are primary needs, English and the arts are secondary needs. They are still needs. English and the arts are not viewed as more important than medical careers which is fair. Books cannot perform a life saving operation. However, English and the arts speak to a deeper need in people. They speak to an emotional and spiritual need that cannot be fulfilled by science or math. The arts (performing, visual, and written) deepen our views of our own world while taking us to other worlds beyond our physical reach. They revive us from a state of prolonged frustration and relieve us of our busy lives full of tedious chores if only for a brief time.
Look around you the next time you go out. On your cereal box, there is art; on the billboards, there is art; in textbooks, there is art. And as far as writing goes, there is writing on every package, on every menu, on every advertisement. For those people who ridicule my major and for any of you who have had similar experiences and doubts, there are more opportunities than people will lead you to believe, and even in the most competitive career fields, people have succeeded. So why not you?