BY RACHEL SHARPE
Within the last decade, there have been thousands of breakthroughs in science and technology that have led to incredible discoveries. Science and technology affect almost every aspect our lives and have shaped our society. Florida Governor Rick Scott sites the technological explosion in recent years as just cause for pushing a plan to shift more funding towards science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) departments at Florida public universities. Though programs in math and science are essential in today’s advanced society, Scott’s plan to drastically cut funding for liberal arts programs is unreasonable and downright frightening.
Up until now, liberal arts based programs have been heavily emphasized in Florida’s public universities. At the University of Florida, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest of the University’s 16 colleges with 42 majors, including anthropology, which is listed as one of the top ten.
According to Scott, those who major in liberal arts, such as anthropologists, have little use in today’s world and are unable to compete in the job market. What Scott fails to realize is that anthropologists, who study human behavior and culture, play a crucial role in today’s top science fields and are essential in creating scientific discoveries. Anthropologists can also play a major role in fixing some of the world’s biggest socioeconomic problems such as overpopulation, warfare and poverty.
Liberal arts curriculums teach proficiency of writing and verbal expression, two skills that are extremely valuable to employers. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in 2007, the most important skill that employers seek in potential employees is effective communication. Employers also look for people with a strong work ethic, problem solving and interpersonal skills, all of which are emphasized in liberal arts based courses. The NACE also says that employers value a job candidate’s skills more than their college major. Ultimately, success is determined by the skills an applicant brings to the table rather than their degree.
In addition, Scott doesn’t seem to realize that not all students want to study or pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math. Students have strengths in different areas of study and should not be forced into majoring in a subject they are uninterested in, nor should they be given less of an education simply because their strengths lie elsewhere.
Scott’s discouragement of the arts surely comes from his frustration in not being able to provide the jobs he promised upon becoming governor. However, an emphasis on math, science and technology may not lead to an enormous growth in jobs. Manufacturing companies that require STEM related skills such as Motorola and Siemens reported having limited jobs available. Whereas, psychology majors have seen a rise in post graduation employment of almost 20 percent in the past decade, and humanities and social science majors have seen similar increases. According to studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of anthropologists is expected to grow by 28 percent by the year 2018.
Though Florida’s job market must find a way to dig itself out of a hole, cutting liberal arts funding at public universities is not the solution. We must be proactive in enhancing the diversity in our higher education system, instead of cutting money from fields of study that aren’t included in the STEM programs.
What Scott fails to realize is that liberal arts is more necessary than ever in the current digital revolution. The element of creativity that comes from liberal arts courses is crucial. According to Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc, “It’s the marriage of technology plus the humanities and the liberal arts that distinguishes Apple.” This statement supports the fact that technology alone is not nearly enough. In fact, many times throughout Apple’s history, Jobs’ proficiency in liberal arts saved and transformed the company.
Similarly, Pixar has also mastered the art of combining advanced technology with world-class creativity to develop award winning animated films. A cut in liberal arts programs will surely hinder innovation and creativity in companies such as these.
Scott’s plan to kill liberal arts in the state of Florida would affect the state’s competency in many fields. In today’s society, we have the tendency to hold professionals in science and engineering in higher esteem than those with liberal arts based talents. However, liberal arts majors excel in a variety of occupations, including criminal justice, social work, political science and real estate. With funding only allocated for science and math-related programs, the state of Florida will produce cookie cutter graduates with much less diversity. In today’s competitive world, there is much more value and potential to excel in a society which produces graduates from a variety of fields including math, science and liberal arts.