On the STEM/Humanities Debate

With only one week left ’til my adventure in coding begins with Girls Who Code in Chicago, I thought that it might be nice to shuffle out my thoughts and opinions on the topic of girls in STEM and girls in the humanities.

If you don’t know, I was accepted into a summer immersion program for Girls Who Code! It’s a free, 7-week program designed to introduce girls to coding and computer science; there’s locations all over the country, and the location closest to me was in Chicago. You can also apply for a transportation stipend, and if I had not received a stipend, I wouldn’t be going at all! (Who knew finding an affordable place to stay for only 7 weeks would be so hard? And have you seen the tax prices in Chicago?) They’re definitely non-profit, and they provide lunch all 7 weeks, so I had a feeling that they are very desperate to get girls into STEM. The application is fairly simple—you fill out some general info (e.g. birthdate, ethnicity, residence), state which programs you would like to attend, and answer a short essay question. For the stipend application, all they need is some tax forms, and if you receive a stipend, they will give it to you at the end of the first week. Click here if you want to check out the website!

I’m the sort of girl who dabbles in everything, but I’ve always held a deep love for English. I’ve absolutely loved reading and writing ever since my elementary school days, but I also was greatly curious about science. In second grade, for example, I loved Marie Curie (after reading a graphic novel about her); in third grade, I was utterly fascinated with rocks after we had our geology unit (I still have the rocks my teacher gave me, too!). It was only until I entered middle school that I left science and bulldozed my way towards the humanities. I liked getting things right the first time, and understanding them without too much difficulty, which I’m sure most people can understand. After all, we frequently like the activities that we do well (which is why I avoid the bowling alley). I was even a bit proud about the fact that I was going against the grain; nobody was encouraging me to write anymore. Instead, they were now turning my attention towards STEM subjects.

At least, they were trying to.

I’m a stubborn person, and I extremely dislike being told what to do. I just liked stories. In addition, I was (and still am) an extrovert—I thought that people who were into math and science were all introverts who hated people and being social and spending time with others, which was how I let people know I cared about them (so, basically, I thought that introverts didn’t like me and looked down on me for being so bubbly and “clingy”).

Instead, I liked people, and hearing about their struggles and how they overcame them.

I loved exploring different facets of people’s personalities, and seeing how humanity could produce the worst of people and the best as well.

I  loved life and its crazy ups and downs, and I loved that the people who pursued careers in the humanities were so passionate about their work that they didn’t care about money or living comfortably.

However, as the years passed, my jack-of-all-trades mentality came back, and I found myself becoming engrossed with all other kinds of subjects again. As I navigated out of middle school, I dropped what little Type-A personality I had (which wasn’t a lot), and discovered that it wasn’t about me being perfect and beating everyone else—it was about me doing my best and being able to fail and try again, which was the key to me liking math and science again. Red marks weren’t as intimidating as they once were, as long as I was able to remember how far I’ve come and that I could always try again. (In fact, the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, has just recently done a Ted talk on the topic; “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection” was the title, and you can click here to watch it!) English, I found, was easy for me (and I enjoyed it a lot!), and I did not need bravery to write. Math and science, on the other hand, was a constant struggle.

More time passed, and I became a freshman in high school. With my horizon expanded, I began to develop an interest in math and science again; I also felt a weird sense of relief and unexpected happiness as I stopped fighting and went along with my parents’ prodding towards those subjects. Flash forward ahead to this year, my sophomore year, and I can definitely say that I’ve grown and matured a lot in these past four or five years (which is what you’re supposed to do, but that’s beside the point). My parents have been pushing the financial stability of careers in science—their argument was that with the money I could make from pursuing a, say, career in engineering, I could set aside time to go travel (which I absolutely love doing) and write! Being an English teacher, which was what I was originally set on doing, was stressful and tiring and would not allow me to travel or write or go to those fancy conventions I loved watching and reading about. In addition, my sister would always say something along the lines of, “Yes, you can be miserable in both situations, but it’s better to cry in a large house than by the side of the road. While it’s raining.”

And I agreed with them! It was about combining my interests, my hobbies, my abilities, and real-life facts together into something that could work for me.

Now, however, I was in opposition with my friends. I’m just a bit of a high achiever compared to the people I hang out with, and so being interested in English made me feel more normal (I guess?). But now, I more-or-less felt like a sellout, and like I wasn’t allowed to change my thoughts and ambitions in life; I felt like I was being judged for thinking about the money aspect of my future career. We’re all flawed humans though, so we’ve moved on and are perfectly amiable now! ^^

(Just to be clear, my friends are wonderful people with huge hearts and a tendency to love deeply! Now, since I’m a bit more logical and “cold” in my way of thinking and making decisions (using facts instead of emotion), we can be on differing sides, but that’s okay! Being friends with people that have different opinions and ways of thinking is very interesting, and I think that we’ve been expanding our comfort zones and ability to listen to others without screaming as well! Wow, I just used a lot of exclamation marks!)

What, exactly, are my thoughts on girls in STEM versus girls in the humanities? I definitely felt like I didn’t get enough support for my interests in writing, and that’s all due to the fact that girls are traditionally known for being interested in writing, and so they don’t necessarily need encouragement. Meanwhile, we’re all pushing girls into STEM to close the gender gap, and I really think we should alter out methods. I don’t think anybody should be ashamed of their (non-harmful) interests and hobbies! It’s perfectly all right to like, for example, English over math. It just becomes a bit problematic when the only reason you like English and not math is because you haven’t really tried anything else or are afraid of failure; and so, instead of constantly promoting STEM subjects, I think that we should encourage everyone to try everything under the sun; linking what they already like to a new subject can be beneficial as well. For example, the company GoldieBlox makes toys designed to get young girls to think spatially with building sets. However, it also pairs building things with stories, to keep them engaged.

Whew, this has been a long blog post! If you were able to make it this far, thank you so much for reading and listening to my off-handed rambles; if you have any thoughts on the subject, please feel free to comment them down below! With that said, see you next week, when I will be writing from the Windy City!

This Week’s Playlist

  1. Dear Evan Hansen OBC
  2. Shelter (Porter Robinson & Madeon)
  3. Satisfied (Hamilton OBC)
  4. Helpless (Hamilton OBC)
  5. Two Cents (Ice Cream Song) (Emily Zeck)

Reading

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

 

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4 thoughts on “On the STEM/Humanities Debate

    1. Oh gosh I loved it! Yeah, there were a few bumps in the road ’cause I was far away from home for a really long time, but it was an awesome experience! If you ever have the chance to do it, you definitely should!!

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    1. I absolutely loved it! Some adaptations of P+P that I love are the Youtube webseries and the BBC miniseries. Though, I do have to say that Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Jane Austen book–what’s yours? I love meeting people who like reading Jane Austen!

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