Reading, speaking, and thinking in general apparently can damage your career choices, according to the UK Conservative-led government. Their Education Secretary, no less, has got up to warn British schoolkids that arts subjects “will hold them back for the rest of their lives.”

UK Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan was speaking at the launch of the Your Life campaign, which in itself has the laudable objective of encouraging British students to focus more on the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, maths. The campaign aims “to raise participation in science maths and physics A levels by 50 per cent in three years, to ensure the UK is equipped with the skills it needs for today’s fast changing employment landscape.”

“The UK currently faces an annual shortfall of 40,000 workers with the necessary scientific and mathematical skills,” warns the Your Life website. Some might blame the current government’s abysmal education policies, which have been systematically dissected in terms of the damage they have done to British education. However, Morgan apparently felt it better to blame the arts instead.

Formerly, she said “the arts and humanities were what you chose. Because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. “Of course now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth, that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock doors to all sorts of careers are the Stem subjects.” Admittedly, she didn’t directly blame the arts per se … just warn against them.

Of course, others might notice a glaring contradiction between Nicky Morgan’s attitude and other government moves to highlight the £70 billion ($120 billion) in exports generated by the UK’s creative industries. But then, you’d need an arts and humanities education to be able to spot that …


  1. Paul, you need to check your bigotry before you write. She’s not talking down “reading, speaking and thinking in general” being bad. She’s talking about the folly of majoring in liberal arts only to discover that they don’t lead to good paying jobs are even jobs at all.

    A generalized education like that only worked when a well-connected few went to college, perhaps dabbled in the classics and, whatever their degree, their family connections got them good jobs. Not so today.

    I’ve seen the reality. I used the work at the Seattle Art Museum during major events. Many of those selling or checking tickets majored in art or art history in college. They weren’t doing anything they couldn’t do with a high school diploma and their pay was dreadful.

    Your claims about the UK’s creative industries don’t stand up to much scrutiny either. In those fields, a few people (i.e. successful actors and musicians) earn enormous sums while the rest wait tables and live in cold-water flats. If you want to starve, write plays. If you want to make a good living, write computer code. That’s life.

    By the way, this isn’t that different from the efforts the Obama administration is making to get more students to major in STEM subjects.

    I might add that, as an engineering major, I’ve not been impressed with most liberal arts majors I’ve known. All too many simply echo their professors. They never learned to think well. I suspect most liberal arts majors haven’t been taught clear thinking for many decades. C. S. Lewis blasted that sea change in education in his 1943 The Abolition of Man.

    STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—haven’t gone into down the same path because, while a fashionable literary theory may survive even though it is utter bosh, an airplane that’s not built right falls from the sky. One is self-correcting. The other isn’t.

    Like I said, you need to check your bigotries before you write.

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