In a rather bold and controversial statement, a New Zealand professor has warned parents to steer their children away from the arts at university and push them in the direction of science instead.
Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, who is due to start at Waikato University in New Zealand later this month, said that parents should encourage their children to pursue a career in science, agriculture and agribusiness if they want them to be happy.
Keen to remind us that farming was the dawn of civilisation, the agricultural science professor insisted that “we’ve lost our way with science” while we have allowed arts and culture to thrive.
“I’m not saying ignore arts and culture – I’m just advocating that we feed the soul outside work hours, because we need science and scientific research to keep our economy growing,” Prof. Rowarth commented.
“We all want our children to be happy: that means encouraging them in to careers where they will be valued and can make a difference.”
She also said that science and agribusiness graduates enjoy far higher salaries than arts graduates. This is true: figures disclosed after universities and colleges were ordered by ministers to provide data on everything (including where their students end up working and how much they earn) show that medicine, dentistry, chemical engineering, veterinary medicine and economics graduates earn the highest salaries, with average annual of pay £25,700.
The Professor’s statements raise two issues: firstly, are graduate jobs
related to science really the only ones where you can ‘make a difference’; and secondly, that what makes one person happy might not have the same effect on another – and so stating that happiness stems from a well-paid science career which allows you to make a difference is a massive generalisation.
Jobs in the arts can of course make a difference: activists and fundraisers strive to make the world a better place; authors, poets, artists and filmmakers can touch the lives of many through empathy, an essential component of human life; and the ‘napalm girl’ photographer Huynh Cong Ut says he regularly gets thanked by US citizens who truly believe his famous photo of 9-year-old girl fleeing a napalm attack stopped them being sent to Vietnam.
For an overview of career-related happiness, have a scan over the next news post, where we address this in more detail. What do you think – should the arts simply “feed the soul” rather than form the basis of a career?