Growing up in an Indian household, it definitely came as a shock when I told my family (none of whom are STEM majors, by the way) that I did not want to venture into medicine or engineering. From a young age, I had been trading my pencils for markers and my times tables for coloring books, but there was still an underlying mentality despite how progressive my family claims to be that the only respectable careers are doctors and engineers, with lawyers just barely crossing the line between success and failure. Thankfully, my household is not as conservative as others so the idea of me pursuing a career in journalism was not too shameful, but unfortunately others are not given this level of acceptance. This toxic and continuing mentality, present in society as a whole and not strictly limited to one culture or another, is fueled by the crippling lack of funding that arts programs receive in the American education system.
With education constantly being the first department to receive budget cuts, the arts receive this blow more so because they are the first area to be deemed unimportant. Donald Trump has already proposed a redesigned budget plan that completely eliminates the arts and humanities departments of public education by obliterating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Despite receiving several cuts throughout history, this is the first time a president has proposed such drastic measures in regards to the arts.
By reducing or completely eliminating the arts department of public school, many students will not have creative outlets to express themselves and be forced into passionless professions that they have no real interest in. As private art lessons are very expensive (speaking from experience), many students who cannot afford these luxuries only have art classes in public school as a method of self expression. If these programs are eliminated, students will not be able to hone their passions and experiment with different programs in order to choose a career they are passionate about in the future. As a result, many students will feel incompetent throughout their lives if they do not fit the standard of the traditional, academically inclined student, not realizing that they have talents that simply are not stressed enough in the education system.
We need to, as a society, recognize that STEM fields are not the only important professions. Without art, we would lack the entertainment industry, literature, architecture, and a plethora of other fields that we take for granted in the face of definitively lucrative jobs. Creating a society that views money as the main motivation for entering a career will inevitably form a one-note population that suffers from a lack of passion. To quote the late Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society,
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”