Section: Opinion

Knowledge STEMs from liberal arts

By Hannah Leidy

Stepping onto Middle Path is a reminder of everything I want in my collegiate academic experience. When standing in front of Rosse Hall, I can look one way and see the Science Quad — another turn of the head and I glimpse several humanities buildings. Every sphere of knowledge is within a 360-degree view.

This isn’t the case at some large universities like University of North Carolina Chapel Hill or American University, who seem to strategically make various areas of study far away, subtly encouraging students to take more classes in one area in order to avoid scurrying over miles of campus. My friends at state universities often express the pains of traveling across campus between their classes in different departments. But there is another change afoot.

The authority of a liberal arts education has waned with the rise of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, whose ancestral subjects of astronomy, geometry and arithmetic coincidentally originated in the classical idea of artes liberales. Specification in those subjects is now encouraged as the U. S. strives to compete with countries like China in industry and technology. Consequently, a broader education, especially those with emphases on humanities, are pushed aside.

Large universities seem to encourage, even compel, students to major in subjects like computer science, physics or engineering. In Joel Stein’s Time magazine article “Humanities, All Too Humanities,” he mentions that universities often opt to accept students with plans on majoring in STEM disciplines over applicants planning to major in humanities.

Excuse me, but their futures hold no more promise of success than mine does.

If STEM disciplines take over colleges and universities, will these future doctors be able to properly explain what is happening to their patient in non-medical language? Or will future engineers be able to conduct the appropriate historical research that could change the way we design systems like infrastructure?

Don’t get me wrong, scientists and researchers perform amazing feats. But the humanities are crucial for applying science and mathematics to life.

This is why a liberal arts education is fundamental: It forces students to broaden their interests by taking courses in several disciplines, shaping them into well-rounded individuals. And if a student wants to be an astrophysics and anthropology double-major, no one will stop her.

Having knowledge in multiple disciplines also gives graduates the advantage of being more versatile in competitive job fields, not to mention that people taking all sorts of different studies in college can contribute a unique perspective to a class that may not otherwise consider a certain point.

The liberal arts education makes Kenyon remarkable. It enables me to walk down Middle Path with my friends, listening to pre-meds talk about their English classes or others tying in points from women’s and gender studies to psychology. Rich intellect and illuminating discussions fill the atmosphere, making it so students are learning even outside of the classroom.

An exclusively STEM education makes interactions like that harder. Hands down: liberal arts wins.

Hannah Leidy ’18, is an undeclared major from Elizabeth City, N.C. She can be reached at


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