Humanities:

A pathway to unemployment

By BADE ORDU | March 6, 2020



Before I started to study at the University of Amsterdam, people in high school knew me as the ‘artsy kid’. One to two – this was the art to science ratio in my class. Unwritten social rules divided people between the ‘serious physics problem solvers’ and those who were ‘only painting’. Despite this hierarchy, we all learned to live with it and developed inside jokes. 

As time passed by, I started to study at university as a humanities student, or even worse, as a media student. Many of my friends got accepted by prestigious schools all around the world to study a ‘worthy’ program. Meanwhile, I always had to add “UvA is the #1 university in the world for my studies” in a conversation to avoid the pitiful “you will end up unemployed” look in people’s eyes. Back then, I thought only my country believed that you were nothing if you were not an engineer or a doctor. But it turns out that this stereotype is global and hurts those within the discipline.

Increasingly, this thinking has also echoed through the political arena. Politicians in the United States, from Senator Marco Rubio to former President Barack Obama, have downgraded the importance of humanities. China has decided to turn 42 of its best universities into ‘science and technology’ institutes. In the United Kingdom, the high governmental focus on Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) has led to a 15% decline (since 2014) in students choosing to study arts. From politics, to grandparents’ comments at the dinner table, to mocking comments online – humanities seem to be the most condemned choice for university studies.  

However, they are actually at the foundation of many other subjects. The study of how humans document their human experience – from art, philosophy and history to language – tells us what we value as humans, in the past and in current times. Having its roots in Ancient Greece, it served as the basis for a broad education of citizens. To become a homo universalis was the ideal, someone who can draw on complex networks of knowledge in order to solve specific problems. In times of global connectedness, such an intersectional approach seems more important than ever.

The main concern of humanities students is whether their ‘unnecessary’ degree will actually leave them unemployed. However, living a fulfilling life by doing the thing you love the most is the key to happiness – and getting a job. So why do people keep pushing themselves towards education and career paths to satisfy those around them? After all, doing something you love is the most important thing if you want to live your life to the fullest. Every discipline is challenging in its own way and it would be foolish to compare them hierarchically. 

Forcing yourself to do something you do not enjoy, only because it will supposedly bring you money in the future is ridiculous not only as a concept but as a universally accepted notion. Be happy with what you are doing – and the money will come along.

Bade Ordu is a student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

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