Op-Ed

Increasing divide between arts and sciences harms students

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For my 10th birthday, the gift I wanted more than anything else, above all the dolls and toys lining the shelves of any toy store, was a microscope.

My dream was short lived. For some reason, my mom took away my microscope privileges when she found me about to prick my finger with one of her sewing needles.

But, 10 years later, I found a way to get my microscope back.

Having just finished my first year at the University of Kentucky, it should be no surprise that I have decided to pursue a degree in biology. On campus my mom, hopefully, won’t have any control over my microscope time.

When I tell my peers this story, they clearly see the logical progression my interests have taken. From a curious kid wanting to look at bugs and blood under a microscope, I’ve become a young adult seeking an opportunity to make a career out of these interests.

However, their understanding hits a road block when I tell them I’m also studying for a minor. In English.

The questions that follow rarely change: How could the two subjects possibly be related? What use could this minor ever have for me?

I was far more confused by their confusion. Haven’t the sciences and humanities always been related?

Leonardo Da Vinci was painter and inventor while Albert Einstein had a love for music second only to his love for physics. Is scientific progress even possible without creativity?

When looking at a nebula in space do we see only gas in a vacuum or a vibrant splash of beauty within the darkness?

Are pieces of music merely sound waves reaching our ears or do we hear music as interpretation of emotion?

The cause of their confusion, I believe, is that we are creating a divide between the arts and sciences within our school systems. At an early age, we are teaching children that they can learn math and science or English and the arts, but they can’t study both.

There is such a strong push for success in these STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects that even excelling in other areas is viewed as equal to failure.

Society defines success and, currently, technology overruns ours.

Perhaps you can paint beautiful watercolor landscapes but can you do calculus? If not, you have no chance of being viewed as an intellectual equal to those that can.

Gov. Matt Bevin and state education officials are encouraging this exclusion of the arts and humanities by awarding money to colleges and universities based on the type of degrees earned, with a priority on STEM.

At all levels in Kentucky, arts programs are not only being pushed aside but erased.

I graduated from a public school in Kentucky and now, looking back at all the schools I attended, the art, band and choir classes have experienced budget cuts until they can barely function. In some cases, they have disappeared entirely.

Universities will do what they must to get funding. However, those who use money to control the interests and education of young people are wrong.

Brianna Ritchison of Richmond can be reached at bri.column.responses@gmail.com.

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