Why Menlo should place a greater emphasis on the liberal arts

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Why Menlo should place a greater emphasis on the liberal arts

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Junior Clara Guthrie argues that Menlo could do a better job emphasizing the liberal arts. Creative Commons image: Abhijit Bhaduri on Google Images.

By Clara Guthrie 

In a recent assembly on Jan. 30, Dr. Arnberg hosted a panel of Menlo students who had participated in summer internships over the past few years to commence Internship Exploration Week. The students who spoke and shared their experiences were incredible, achieving feats that included predicting earthquakes, coding a rover to be sent to the moon and learning the basics of cardiac surgery. But of the roughly fifteen students that spoke, only three spoke about a topic beyond STEM. Three. 

I would like to clarify that I am not against STEM. I have immense respect for the students who climb the levels of computer science (CS) courses, take advanced math classes and enjoy scientific exploration. However, that portion of the student body does not represent the student body as a whole.

Plenty of students have never and will never take a CS or upper-level math class simply because that is not what interests them. Plenty of students instead prefer taking advanced English and history classes or spending their time expanding their knowledge of the arts and languages. I do not think that the latter group of students is superior to the former, but I would appreciate both groups being valued equally in our community.

In my eyes, it would be an easy fix to place a balanced emphasis on both STEM and other subjects. For example, in last week’s assembly, the coordinators could have reached out to students who had internships and did programs in a range of fields. I know people who did a musical theater intensive, had an interior design internship, had a journalism internship, worked at a school in Ghana and much more. Unfortunately, they were not asked to speak at assembly and share their own amazing experiences with the student body.

I understand that we live in the Silicon Valley where the world of technology is highly valued. However, just because we live in the Silicon Valley does not mean that schools need force STEM down their students’ throats. As an educational environment, Menlo should take the time to celebrate all of their students’ interests.
To be honest, sitting at the internship assembly listening to the students speak made me feel stupid. It showed me that, while Menlo students do a range of incredible things, the only incredible things that Menlo values and holds up on a pedestal are ones involving STEM.

I would like to repeat that I am in no way against STEM, nor do I think that the liberal arts are more important. However, I do not think it is too much to ask to have my and so many other students’ interests be valued equally with the students represented at assembly. Menlo should be teaching its students to celebrate their interests, no matter what they may be, to promote diversity and creativity in the community.