In a stem world choose the arts

Aeryn Kauffman, Columnist

In a world with coding bootcamps for stay-at-home mothers, STEM schools for toddlers, and Ted Talk after Ted Talk with suspiciously happy speakers, it can be intimidating for a student with a natural interest in the arts. We don’t all have to be coding wizards, foaming at the mouth while staying up for the third day in a row programming GitHub projects. Arts are just as important in our modern world.

Other arts majors, such as film, graphic design or theater majors, can sympathize with the feeling of annoyance at the question, “art? What are you gonna do with that?” I don’t even want to think about the jokes philosophy majors get.

This tired question is usually stated with an innocent curiosity, but sometimes, there’s the person with a smirk, saying it as if they’ve stumped you. Yeah, I bet this person has never even considered this question! I’m so smart.

Well, we have considered it, and sometimes it keeps us up at night. One of my classmates said to me in passing, “I’m unsure about my future.” This is a normal thing to hear from someone majoring in the arts.

The thing is, you shouldn’t major in something you don’t like. This may seem obvious, but the pressure to major in a STEM field is real. I was a computer science/English double major for a quarter. Those were dark times.

Professionals working in a field they enjoy are more productive. According to, happier workers also “perform better, have closer relationships with co-workers, and take more pride in their work than their less-jubilant counterparts.”

I can attest to this. Though I’m learning the fundamentals of important programming languages like Java, SQL and HTML, it isn’t something I look forward to. However, though I’m taking 18 credits this quarter at CWU and five credits online at a community college, I always look forward to the writing intensive homework in my arts classes. I enjoy writing poetry for my creative writing class, and I enjoy writing opinion pieces for The Observer, so I get those assignments done earlier and my performance is better than in the HTML/CSS class.

Arts change the world. According to the Guardian, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” made President Theodore Roosevelt pass acts which led to the modern Food and Drug Administration.

More recently, the 2012 documentary film “The Invisible War” had a direct impact on the U.S. military’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault in the armed forces, according to the New York Times. Several high ranking military officials saw the film, leading to Senate hearings and the eventual signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which included many reforms to how the military handles sexual assault cases.

Of course, musicians make a huge impact, too. Reaching peak popularity with his 2009 “Causers of This” album, Toro y Moi “was one of the first artists to be called chillwave,” according to Spotify. His work paved the way for psychedelic pop artists like Animal Collective and Tame Impala.

TV shows, movies, books and music are things people remember as life changing. You can write the next song some kid has their first kiss to. You can be the next Wes Anderson. Your novel can be taught in schools worldwide. Choose the arts.