Life @ U of T


Debunking the stigma surrounding the social sciences

Debunking the stigma surrounding the social sciences

Picture of the Arts and Sciences banner at the front of Sidney Smith Hall

From countless memes and subtle in-person jabs, I think it is obvious that there is a belief that the humanities and social sciences are inferior to S.T.E.M. In my hometown, not entering a degree in Engineering or choosing to become something other than a doctor or accountant was like sinning against nature. My parents’ friends would brag about how their kid is studying commerce at Queens, or that their nephew just entered medical school. It seemed like my peers had it all figured out. From the day they entered university it appeared as if they knew exactly what was best for them.

Meme of shocked person: "When you find out your liberal arts degree won't help you get a job in the real world"

I don’t buy that at all. I started off in university believing that S.T.E.M. was the safest way to secure gainful employment after graduation. That I could excel in it because I was smart. While I did excel in my courses, and arguably learned a lot, I found that my skills were best suited for the social sciences. This pivotal shift in how I viewed myself required me to abandon the labels and notions put upon me by others in my life.

gif: never underestimate me

Breaking down the common arguments

To respond to the numerous people in my life that have unfavourable opinions that they love to share about my program, I’ve taken the time to evaluate their arguments. Please enjoy this loose analysis that is mostly my opinion:

“Studying S.T.E.M. ensures that you become gainfully and securely employed”

I have yet to come across a comprehensive comparative analysis as to how simply having a degree in S.T.E.M. is sufficient to get employed. The common argument from adults from my hometown is that even if one is a mid-level professional in S.T.E.M or business, they make a decent income. Although this may be the case, I don’t believe that it is enough a reason to pursue a field of study.

“There aren’t as many jobs in the social sciences and humanities as there are in S.T.E.M. field”

Perhaps there aren’t as many jobs that list Political Science degrees as requirements on, however, there are numerous opportunities that require the skills learned through a degree in the arts. I concede that there often times the jobs available don’t explicitly mention my program in their application.  This does not mean that pursuing work with a degree in the arts is objectively worse than taking a more concrete path – it’s just different.

“The arts are just a hobby, you don’t need to go to school to learn Political Science”

This comment makes no sense, yet I get it a lot from aunts and uncles that think they have my best interest at heart. It’s usually followed by a comment like, “Well, at least you’re enjoying yourself”. It’s comical that in this era – where we are arguably experiencing a pivotal shift in society as evident in the political sphere – that people genuinely think this way. If I had a dollar for every time an elder told me how low in value my degree is, I could pay my tuition. It’s as though things like critical thinking, argumentation, and impactful communication don’t matter at all in the ‘real world’. Wild.

Mindy Kaling in The Office "Guys I'm like really smart you don't even know"

The key to escaping this baseless toxicity is understanding the inherent benefit to studying the arts. No, I’m not studying Political Science because I cannot do the sciences. My grades in my life sciences courses were way better than in my social science courses (there’s always a right answer in MAT135, you just need to know how to calculate how to find it!). Admittedly, at first the uncertainty associated with the social sciences scared me. Then I spoke with my mentors and realized that life after school is mostly uncertainty. One fear does not assuage the other, but it comforts me to know that I’ll be used to dealing with precarity by the time I graduate.

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