This week I was hit with a headline stating that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said, ‘arts subjects limit career choices’ for young people. The idea is that science and technology is the place to go, if you want a job and that the arts are a waste of time, especially if you want to be a good capitalist and make lots of money to boost the economy. Fortunately, I work in the games industry, where science and art works in perfect harmony. The problem is, Morgan doesn’t see it that way.
In November 2014, Nicky Morgan said this, “If you wanted to do something, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, then the arts and humanities were [once] what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn’t be further from the truth – that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and maths”.
Ironically, Morgan has a humanities degree, which doesn’t seem to have hampered her political career. In fact, so does David Cameron, William Hague and other high profile members of the cabinet, which suggests that the humanities can really get you places.
The fact is, Morgan takes rather simplistic approach, especially, when you consider that the Department of Culture, this week, released figures showing that the value of the UK’s creative industries were worth a record £76.9bn in 2013. And of course video games sit in the heart of the creative industries, which also include IT, film and music.
The creative industries accounted for 5.6% of UK jobs, employing 2,616,000 people. So with creatives making more money than ever, in more jobs than ever, what’s the problem?
Let me explain.
Here in the UK, the government is throwing its weight behind, what are known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. The uptake of STEM subjects is quite low and the government has decided this is where the jobs are and this is where we should be steering our kids. In the meantime, the arts are cut from the ground up and sidelined as subjects for people who don’t know what they want to do.
My first objection is that arts and humanities don’t limit your future. But my overall objection is the seeming need to pit art and humanities against STEM subjects. They are all integral parts of human ingenuity. Separating art and science would be like trying to separate mind and body.
If we approach this argument as gamers, Nicky Morgan would be telling us that we don’t need illustrators and writers or musicians or creative marketing teams to get the games out there. In Morgan’s world, we’d just have software engineers and the mathematics and physics that goes into a game. But without a creative mind behind a game, what would the maths and physics be doing? Would there even be a game?
Surely games are creative endeavours, philosophical meanderings, which is not the stuff of STEM, according to Morgan. Unless, Morgan wants to turn us into mindless drones (surely not), who slot into engineering and science jobs, purely to make money for UK plc, surely even STEM needs creative and curious minds.
Art and science are inextricably linked. Art is the vision and human aspiration and science makes it happen. By gazing at the stars we dreamt of other worlds, explored our own and then landed on the moon, but HG Wells and Jules Verne took us there first.
Morgan’s divisive approach to education needs to go. We need to encourage young people to consider STEM subjects, as well as arts and humanities. Neither should be sidelined in favour of the other. A world without art is as inhuman as a world without science. Vote STEAM, not STEM.