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  • Alice Thompson

Humanities Degrees Are Useless.


When I first heard the Australian Government had announced plans to cut university fees for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and teaching degrees, and more than double those in humanities, I assumed it was a hoax. Sadly, it was very real.

After confirming the legitimacy of the claim, I began to gather as much information as I could. I like to think it was about becoming more educated but, in reality, it was out of desperation to find some detail which would make it all better.

What I found was even worse than I’d originally thought. Our government was entirely dismissing the value of the performing arts and humanities, claiming they couldn’t lead to real careers and so they would make them unattractive by pricing them out of reach of the majority.

They were sending a crystal-clear message to all Australians that the arts have little value, by actively encouraging a cultural belief that pursuing a career in the arts industry is not worthwhile.

The impact of introducing huge increases to fees for creative courses is and will be catastrophic for our next generation of university goers, myself included, and should not be underestimated.

I’ve been a performer for as long as I can remember. All of my passions and interests have their basis in creativity, which has had a huge impact on the kinds of degrees and careers I want to pursue. Every course I have an interest in has been targeted by this insidious proposal — from performing arts to journalism, history, advertising and even law. Every one of them is in the firing line. For many students wishing to pursue a career in these fields, HECs fees which could be more than double what they anticipated will be a major roadblock.

Going to an academically selective school, I am more than accustomed to people not understanding why I want to study in an area which has nothing to do with STEM. A lot of people simply don’t understand what these courses teach, believing any creative degree to be wishy-washy and pointless. Anyone who’s studied in these areas can tell you that’s far from the reality.

These are degrees which teach us to think critically, question what we’re told, show how to form opinions for ourselves, communicate effectively with each other and express new ideas. They are the pathways to careers which can lead to real and positive change in our society. Our government wants to deliberately make them inaccessible to those who most need a voice. By putting these fee changes in place, they aren’t just discouraging people from pursuing the things they enjoy, they are effectively limiting who can and cannot learn how to think for themselves and voice their opinion.

Careers in humanities, performing arts and law deliver enormous potential to change our world for the better. Our abilities as creative individuals and critical thinkers to examine the world, express ideas to the public, stand up for what we believe in and educate others on important topics is powerful.

The government wants to restrict these kinds of degrees. They want to make them only accessible to those in positions of privilege and wealth over those who most need the platform the performing arts and humanities create. They want to prioritise those people who don’t want the system to change, who already thrive off social and economic inequalities, who cannot and will not campaign for change in the way we do.

There is no evidence to support the government’s claims that STEM degrees lead to real jobs. In fact, humanities graduates have an employment rate of 91 percent, which is higher than both science and maths*. Humanities degrees are NOT useless, they contribute so much to our society and can lead to hundreds of different important and impactful careers.

This disgraceful proposal isn’t about encouraging the youth of Australia to go into more in-demand careers, it is about limiting who can learn the skills to change the world. It’s about silencing us.

We will not be silenced.

Alice Thompson is a 15-year-old student at Merewether High School. She studies drama and musical theatre with Hunter Drama and undertakes vocal training with The Voice Studio.

* https://theconversation.com/humanities-graduates-earn-more-than-those-who-study-science-and-maths-141112


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