The divide between STEM and the social sciences is well-known to most high school students. Students often feel as though they must choose one area and stick to it for the rest of their high school studies. Others believe that it would be more beneficial to instead explore a wide variety of subjects in both areas and to gain a diverse range of knowledge and skills.
Naturally, course selection is a stressful task for many high school students. Students who already know the career path they wish to pursue worry about whether they should take courses in divergent departments in addition to core courses. Students who have no idea what they want to study are unsure whether they should choose one path and stick to it or enroll in a wide variety of courses until they figure it out.
This dilemma usually boils down to social sciences vs STEM, but what about students who are more interested in the arts and athletics? It’s certainly not possible to have a schedule with nothing but arts or athletic courses, but would they benefit more from taking social science courses, STEM courses, or both? Why bother taking courses in multiple departments at all? Ultimately, should high school students study both the social sciences and natural sciences equally?
Going into grade 9, many students are still unsure about what careers they want to pursue and what courses they need to take to get there; however, most will have a pretty good idea about what they’re at least decent at and what they absolutely despise. Students who would rather spend their day learning about physics and chemistry will bang their head against a table at the thought of writing an essay. Meanwhile, students who love nothing more than learning about history and anthropology will weep in agony when faced with equations. As such, many students will try to stick to one department and avoid other courses as much as possible.
But are the social sciences and natural sciences all that different? When it comes to real-life applications, the social sciences and natural sciences are very much intertwined. Scientific advancements usually originate as a means to solve humanitarian problems that are initially studied from a social or political perspective. At the same time, certain societal and political issues cannot be studied without also taking into account relevant scientific facts. Thus, it is important for students to have a basic understanding of various subjects no matter what career they wish to pursue.
Often students’ feel pressured to pursue STEM professions because they’re deemed to be the most respectable jobs indicative of an individual’s intelligence and work ethic. Social sciences and the arts, on the other hand, are often frowned upon as a useless subject to pursue. A common misconception is that a degree in the social sciences is useless in terms of job prospects. Consequently, many students choose to focus solely on STEM courses and only take social sciences as required for their high school diploma.
However, there are many respectable, well-paying, and important careers in the social sciences, such as law, politics, social work, journalism, urban planning, and many more. Even just remaining in the academic field, working either as a professor or a researcher, is important in keeping human culture alive, such as in the study of history, literature, and the arts. This push towards STEM fields is precisely why many social science professions are in demand, and also why certain social science university programs are less competitive in admissions.
Therefore, for students who are unsure of what they want to do, or are focusing solely on the natural sciences, it’s important to push themselves to explore multiple subjects outside of the natural sciences should they find something they’re very passionate about and would rather pursue.
Students who already know what they want to do in the future should still take a variety of different courses in order to gain a wide variety of transferable skills. Transferable skills are skills and abilities that are relevant and useful in multiple fields and in other areas of life. STEM students will benefit from taking social science courses as they aid in the social development of students. The social sciences are very communication intensive and as such help STEM students develop the skills to convey scientific information. Certain courses help to develop other important social skills such as empathy and tolerance. Conversely, students who are more inclined to study the social sciences will still benefit from taking STEM courses. STEM subjects call for several skills that are important for any future career, such as technological proficiency, data analysis and statistics, numeracy, and problem-solving skills. Social and natural sciences aside, the arts foster creativity and athletics develop teamwork skills. Furthermore, just being able to do well in a variety of courses shows adaptability and flexibility.
On the other hand, the courses you take in high school should not be solely for the sake of getting into a university and acquiring skills for your future profession. Learning for fun should also be part of one’s high school experience. Even if a certain course does not relate whatsoever to your future goals, it’s fine to take a course simply because you find it enjoyable and interesting.
Since the dawn of time, man has differed itself than other creatures of Earth to become the king of the planet today. Although the typical human does not match the physical prowess of other animals, it came to be the dominant species due to teamwork. While other animals usually occupy the same niches as every other member of their species, mankind developed a more methodical societal system where every individual has a different, specialized niche that contributes to the overall advancement of humanity.
This ancient system continues to carry on even in the modern age. Our bustling modern cities have a plethora of jobs and roles for the average citizen – but one thing remains the same: everybody is doing something different; the doctors that work tirelessly to provide healthcare to the masses had a different educational path than that of the urban planners that created the maze of roads and highways. It is very likely that at a young age, both had vastly different interests. They probably took different courses in high school, applied for different scholarships that got them into different university programs that specialized to their interests. It is undeniable that both are very well-educated, successful people. Yet, the new social norm of the well-rounded student and stigma against people who are excellent in one subject but poor in another undermines the standards of civilization. Studying a variety of subjects when in reality a person will only use one in their chosen career leaves the others completely useless. Hours of wasted time accumulate on the study of random material – time that could have been spent on better things. In fact, studying the opposite subject can be more counterproductive than typical “time-wasters”: a person gets a little bit of fun playing Super Mario rather than miserably reading a book that will have no benefit on their lives whatsoever
It is a perfectionist’s opinion to say someone can select multiple career paths and still be successful. Taking a look at the most populous and prominent western country, the United States, only 8.3% of people hold multiple jobs. Many of these people either work in the same career cluster, are low income individuals seeking to supplement income, or women whose main occupation is an at-home mother. Yet, many of the people who hold multiple jobs can hardly be called successful. Most of them are forced into choosing secondary work due to insufficient finances. “Challenging students” into more subjects might make a person seem intelligent, but is realistically less practical – reflecting why the other employees of the United States choose to select one job is because they keep their focus on said job. The work that they produce ends up being better and they eventually earn more than the multitaskers.
However, this should not be taken as a manifesto against the exploration of new subjects. Students should take some time to look at both social and natural science career paths before making an educated decision about which one they will stick with for the rest of their lives. By making a wise choice early in life, students are bound for success. Students should be encouraged to research about how their interests can link up to the studying of an eventual career path. However, once selected, one should allocate as little time as possible on random sources of knowledge that deviate from their choice.
Societal standards exist for a reason; a reasoning backed with 5000 years of historical evidences and successes. If humanity were to discontinue using this job system to outclass all other living beings on the planet, catastrophic events will follow.