Bytes of Tech: Is a liberal arts education suitable for STEM?

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Bytes of Tech is a column by Vivian Wang that highlights the role of technology in the lives of Generation Z youths and the ways that youths can bridge the gender gap in STEM. This week, Wang reflects on her impressions of a liberal arts education and addresses the popular perceptions of the liberal arts.

Coming into the college application process at the beginning of this summer, I had no idea what a liberal arts education was. I thought that a liberal arts education was focused on liberalism and geared towards humanities-oriented individuals. Along with many of my friends, I misinterpreted the idea of a liberal arts education, but after reading the excerpt on the liberal arts from William Dersiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep,” I now have a clearer image of what the liberal arts are.


What a liberal arts education entails

Being a liberal arts student doesn’t mean that you spend your weekends geeking out at an art exhibit and your weekdays participating in Socratic Seminars for hours.

It means that there’s a balance in all areas of study. It means that you have an opportunity to take your intellectual curiosity to the next level, understand various worldviews and unleash your inner creativity to address and solve local and global issues.

Most high schoolers, including myself, perceive the liberal arts as solely philosophy, literature, history, political science, linguistics and sociology. A liberal arts education also encompasses logic, psychology and the sciences. Pursuing a liberal arts education means that you have the opportunity to channel your inner computer science passions while also having the time to participate in scholarly discussions about the classics.


My initial impressions of the liberal arts

When I was in 10th grade, I dreaded signing up for AP European History since I never understood the applications of history. My mom always made the comparison of “If I was stranded on an island with nothing but coconuts and a small patch of land, would the class help me survive?”

I’ve had this comparison play on a loop in the back of my mind since freshman year, always thinking that the humanities were “fluff classes” and that the STEM-oriented classes were the ones that I should put my heart into.

With my mom’s comparison in the back of my mind, math was ranked number one on my list of “useful” classes since I imagined that I’d have to calculate the distance from the island to shore. Maybe I could use the Pythagorean Theorem that I memorized in eighth grade to calculate this distance to shore.

Unfortunately, European history made it to the bottom of the list since I didn’t see much of a real-life application in memorizing the map of Europe and knowing the spellings of each of the countries.

Seemed practical at first, didn’t it?

How the liberal arts fit my aspirations in both journalism and computer science

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the humanities at my school, I’ve opened so many opportunities that I would never have imagined myself participating in. I see the perks of both humanities & STEM and I recognize that they aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m now in my final year of high school and I’m embracing the values of interdisciplinary learning more than ever.

As an aspiring journalist and computer scientist, I’m especially intrigued by the liberal arts because of a well-rounded education in which I won’t have to go through the painful process of choosing to specialize in journalism or computer science. I could major in computer science and study towards earning a certificate in journalism.

While some of my friends view liberal arts as an impediment since many of them are interested in medicine, I see it as a chance to apply my knowledge in multiple disciplines. Not all of my friends seek a liberal arts education since we all have different aspirations in life. Many of my friends and colleagues prefer to allocate their time in college to become the best doctor possible and may not have the time to explore the humanities as much.

In my current column called “Bytes of Tech,” I’m writing about the role of tech in Generation Z and ways that we can bridge the gender gap in STEM. With some background & technical knowledge in computer science, I’m harnessing the power of communicating through words to share about all things tech.

Looking towards the future, I see myself pursuing a liberal arts education in just one year in college.

Journalism and computer science can share the spotlight — neither of these has to take priority when it comes to a liberal arts education. I aspire to use the power of journalism, leveraging the power of journalism to shed light on accessibility in technology and the gender gap in STEM.

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