Closing the Door on Miss Morgan

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Many will know that recently Education Secretary Nicky Morgan released a statement expressing the idea that subjects more orientated on factual knowledge, science and maths (or the ‘STEM’ subjects as the government refers to them), are more likely to open doors for teenagers than humanities and arts.

I, as an English student, am not only offended by this statement, but find it absolutely ludicrous that such a statement has been said so publicly. Suggesting something like this is not only going to derail an aspiring humanity pupil’s self-confidence and motivation, but students like myself, already taking a humanity at degree level, will be offended.

Miss Morgan said:

“If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs. We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.”

She then continues, saying: “The UK needs to recruit 83, 000 engineers a year over the next 10 years to compete economically”

Now, wait a second. She’s saying that these STEM subjects apparently open doors. It looks as though, if you’re studying maths and physics, your careers have already been set out for you. One may think that Miss Morgan is actually saying that these STEM subjects will guarantee you a job as an engineer to help further our economy. Let’s also look at her campaign, ‘Your Life’: the objectives are not only to increase the number of people taking A-levels in maths and physics in the next 3 years, but also to encourage the brighter students to become science teachers. Is this just Miss Morgan laying out your future for you again? One may question that this is just an attempt to brainwash the teenagers of this generation, scaring them with this idea of redundancy at the age of 15. And let me say, this is not the only statement that may lead one to question the reliability of her argument.

Miss Morgan provokes further:

“Because the skills gained from studying these subjects will come in useful in almost any job you care to mention; from the creative and beauty industries to architecture.”

Is she saying that humanities and arts do not have skills that will come in handy in any job? Because I can quite easily suggest that that is very untrue. I believe that humanities and arts probably allow someone to develop more skills than studying these STEM subjects: being able to speak publicly, express your opinion clearly and be confident in debate.

“creativity and innovation needs to be at the heart of any thriving and forward looking organisation.”

Matt Hunter

Surely one of the most important skills is to work well with others, which, I assume, is less developed in a subject like Maths. This is a skill that is needed working for a large business or accounting firm, not to mention the obvious occupations for humanity subjects, which are law and journalism. In fact Matt Hunter, for the Telegraph, has recently written an article on how important the creative art degrees are to businesses. He says:

 “…there is mounting evidence that it is the uniqueness of a creative arts or design degree which is proving so attractive to employees.” And he follows, answering why this is the case, stating “creativity and innovation needs to be at the heart of any thriving and forward looking organisation.”

A final comment I will quote from Hunter, that further negates Miss Morgan’s argument that arts have limited career prospects, is when he states:

“The Government is also putting strong support behind the industry, recognising the substantial impact the sector currently makes, the future opportunities for growth and the job prospects that will go with it.”

This final line clearly gives evidence that Miss Morgan may be slightly incorrect in her controversial declaration and may need to consider the benefits of humanities and arts before completely ruling them out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that the STEM subjects are important and offer various skills that the humanities and arts don’t offer, and clearly more engineers are needed. However, I don’t believe in making sweeping generalisations that attempt to brainwash people, stopping them from doing the subjects they enjoy. Also, let’s face it, it is very likely that with the right motivation and determination, combined with the passion for the subject you have, you are very likely to end up in a job you enjoy related to that subject – it could be argued that various ‘open doors’ are not even necessary.

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19 years old, aspiring journalist, love acting, love reading and watching films, studying English Lit, regular runner, like basketball, love food, nothing beats the pub.

Discussion3 Comments

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    “I believe that humanities and arts probably allow someone to develop more skills than studying these STEM subjects” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FopyRHHlt3M

    “I believe that humanities and arts probably allow someone to develop more skills than studying these STEM subjects: being able to speak publicly, express your opinion clearly and be confident in debate.” – I hate to be the one to break it to you, but humanities aren’t the only subjects where you have to give presentations. We do this in science too, and on top of that we have to explain lab work week in week out.

    “Surely one of the most important skills is to work well with others, which, I assume, is less developed in a subject like Maths.” – Can’t speak for maths itself, but in physics we work in groups on experiments with high power lasers, on computing projects and analysing data from probes orbiting other planets. In engineering, people have built robots and even a racing car together. But please tell me more about how reading a few books together requires more teamwork than that.

    Employers know which degrees are worth more, and graduate salaries reflect this – a typical engineering graduate will earn ~ 30% more than a typical English graduate. (Source: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/careers/what-do-graduates-do/what-do-graduates-earn/)

    If you chose to study humanities because you’re really interested in a specific subject, or because there’s a specific field that it leads directly to, that’s fair enough. You made the right choice for you and there’s no need to whinge. On the other hand, if you picked humanities because you thought it would open more doors for you than a STEM subject would have, you’ve made a mistake. If that’s the case, then it’s completely necessary for the original comment to be made publicly – otherwise more people will make the same mistake.

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    That is fair enough about physics and engineering, but as i said above i was addressing Maths.

    And English Literature is a lot more about just reading books. It’s about developing arguments, handling evidence and expressing it in a clear and persuasive way, which science does equally, and of course encourages the innovative interpretation of different ideas which science often limits in offering only one solution- but the emphasis here in my article is that one should not be held more superior than the other.

    Seriously??
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    No you weren’t. You said “…in a subject like Maths.” (Complete with incorrect capitalisation.) Physics is a subject like maths. Engineering is a subject like maths. Given that the rest of the article is about STEM in general, ‘like maths’ is just an example, and it doesn’t imply that that sentence refers exclusively to maths. I thought English students were supposed to have a basic grasp of the English language?

    As for the second bit, one well defined answer which can be demonstrated to be correct within given parameters is better than several vague wishy-washy answers. Handling evidence properly is all about statistical analysis. Trying to frame the evidence ‘in a persuasive way’ sounds very dodgy to me; conclusions should be an impartial and repeatable consequence of the evidence, not an exercise in cherry picking whatever fits your pre-determined argument. As for finding innovative solutions to stuff, that’s pretty much the definition of engineering!

    “but the emphasis here in my article is that one should not be held more superior than the other.” – That’s what I disagree with, humanities subjects are not even close to being on par with STEM. Feel free to take another look at the salaries table if you don’t believe me; STEM subjects are demonstrably superior in terms of salary prospects after uni.

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