The return to school means the start of new things. New GCSE choices or perhaps A-Level choices, or perhaps degree choices. For me, the upcoming academic year means starting A-Levels.
Increasingly, there is a clear opinion on what should and should not be taken, especially when you reach A-Level stage. As archaic as it sounds, there is still the strong impression that a respectable career path is to follow STEM subjects and find employment in that industry. Arts or Humanities are suffering as a result. Perhaps not predominantly in numbers but rather in reputation.
Throughout my school journey, there has been opposition to my continuation of creative subjects. In choosing Art at GCSE and then at A-Level I was told by my parents and fellow students that it was ‘wasting potential’, and have even been told that the pursuit of these subjects will lead to me living below the poverty line in adulthood.
Firstly, concerning the idea of ‘wasting potential’. We seem to have an almost Victorian disposition when it comes to the validity of careers. Medicine still ranks as the most reputable career path, with many school events angled toward jobs in this sector. However, creative industries happen to be the fastest growing economic sector in the UK.
As soon as we destigmatize creative subjects and validate them as options just as strong as their scientific counterparts, we will encourage the young people that are influenced by negative popular opinion to enter them, further increasing their academic reputation.
Second issue. The idea that creative subjects necessarily lead to lower-paid careers. Obviously, money is important. Being able to pay the bills and live comfortably is a security with great value. However, creative industries can offer this security. I hate to think that we are part of a generation that could set aside their passions in favour of steady pay in a job that they despise. The fact that creative subjects and degrees are not vocational surely improves the range of employability, and thus provides a wider net of potential employment that is able to facilitate entry into numerous sectors?
Perhaps, the troubled artist stereotype plays into the idea that creative industries are futile. However, again, this seems to be an outmoded way of defaming creativity as something that can only ever be a hobby. Without sounding like a fridge magnet, passion needs to be valued more in our society. Love of literature or art or music needs to be esteemed as interesting and intelligent, or as having as much potential for achieving great things as love for the sciences. The widely publicised plight of junior doctors is further testament to the need to breakdown the idea that STEM subjects provide perfect careers while creative subjects provide unemployment.
So in returning to school, we need to prioritise passion. To prioritise love for the subject itself, as opposed to its usefulness and employability status. The best careers are surely things you love to do, and they are what one can excel at and what provides a fulfilling career, rather than just a place you turn up to for the sake of society’s approval.