Arts-related degrees are essential. Prove me wrong.

Since I decided on what I was going to study at University, namely English Literature and Drama, a repeated question popped up often in conversation: what career can I choose after graduating? Objectively, there aren’t a huge number of immediately obvious career outcomes with this degree, in comparison to Business and Marketing for example. However, the breadth and variety of a degree in the arts easily gives one the necessary skills to analyse, evaluate, contemplate, create and more. Why then, does everyone keep saying: “So you just want to be a teacher?” or “A degree in humanities isn’t very useful!”

A humanities degree is continually referenced as ‘risky’ or ‘different’

Don’t get me wrong, teaching is an incredibly admirable profession, one which comes with a huge number of quirks and challenges. It is one, which I am still hesitant to pursue, given the sheer number of different occupations available, as well as the pressure of constant pigeon-holing almost pushing me away from it. However, the world seems certain about pushing every humanities scholar into this stereotype. Despite the immense breadth of possibilities these degrees withhold, assumptions are still made on their practicality.  Here are the reasons why.

Whilst talking with a course-mate earlier in the year, we came to consider that arts-related subjects offer students a greater level of creativity at a much earlier level than STEM subjects. English literature GCSE, for example, offers students the opportunity to draw a conclusion from their own perspective of a piece. They use their own knowledge, before presenting the analysis of their entirely unique argument. Consequently, the precision of structure, presentation and content are rewarded. This is the foundation of the subject, which continues all the way through to a University level.

By contrast, maths GCSE does not afford students the same opportunity for independent creativity. A taught method is applied to a problem to reach a predetermined conclusion. Imaginativeness, which is undoubtedly present in maths, only seems to come to the fore at a much later level: the end of your degree, or even as a post-graduate. As a result, creative processes in these subjects are essentially stifled until a much later level than traditionally arts-related subjects.

Whether this is a reality or not, both my course-mate and I agreed that when we chose our degree it was continually referenced as ‘risky’ or ‘different’. It seemed to have an inherent stigma attached to it, suggesting that we had chosen to study something we enjoyed over getting a job, or the chance to make ‘good money’. Across an incredibly broad range of subjects, from Art History to English, Film, Graphics, etc., humanities students hone skills including improvisation, creativity, communication, development, debate and research. All of these are vital, not only in life but across the business world as a whole. As a result, these students are therefore better adapted to the way the corporate world works: networking, communication and creative individuality.

art-related degrees are absolutely essential to our society

This became more obvious to me than ever during lockdown. Whilst the furlough scheme offered support to those in traditional businesses, large or small, the arts sector continued to struggle. Nevertheless, no one seemed to take the time to realise how valuable the arts were to our society. Whilst we were all sat home, whiling away the hours with board games, Netflix, YouTube, novels, magazines and music, we seemed to forget that behind each chuckle at a sitcom or roll of a dice, there was a team of incredibly creative people who produced these moments. I know for certain that they maintained our sanity throughout the global lockdown.

As a result, I believe that art-related degrees are absolutely essential to our society. The students who read these subjects are able to improvise and adapt in the face of any problem, creatively. As the world continues to expand and grow, particularly in the wake of catastrophic crises that could have the power to destroy humanity, we need to rely more on the humanities, and accept their utility, once and for all.

By James Murtagh

Image: by Engin_Akyurt via Pixabay

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