On the Radio 4 programme that I mentioned in the first part of this blog post article, some of the panellists, in my view, wrongly blamed the introduction of the EBacc as the reason why there is a decline in the number of young people who are taking Art and Music at GCSE; in fact, they alleged that society places too much importance on the STEM (Science, Technology and Maths) subjects. They argue that Fine Art, in particular, has been relegated to a subject with lower status and that private schools allow Art to flourish, with many students in those schools taking Art and Music. What they are saying is true; however, what they do not say is that, in independent (private) schools, students are not taking Art and Music at the expense of the EBacc or STEM subjects, but are taking them in addition.
Be aware of what lies ahead as a consequence of your choice of subjects/ degree course
Whilst I very much appreciate many aspects of Fine Art, and believe that a world with more art, and where musical talent is greatly nurtured, is a much richer world, I’ve also noticed that a huge majority of people who call themselves artists are living near to or on the breadline. Sadly, it is similar, although perhaps at a lesser scale, with most musicians as well. I’m a philosophical kind of bloke and I will sell my last shirt to get a good education for myself, my child or anyone I care dearly about. What I also know is that most people will not go to my extreme in getting education at the expense of enormous personal and financial sacrifice.
Was doing a McJob for a lengthy period after graduation part of the plan?
People who are strongly pro-art are arguing that Art as a subject is being relegated to a lower status and that, amongst inner city young people, fewer and fewer of them are taking Art. What the Radio 4 panel I mentioned earlier forgot say or has not seen, is another set of statistics. What I’m referring to here is the earning power of graduates who study Art at university in comparison to those who study STEM subjects. There is a huge disparity: the average earning of those who study Art being considerably less than that of those who study STEM subjects – say, 10 years after graduation. Music is similar, but slightly less so.
Young people ought to be made aware of the potential consequences, or, perhaps, to put it more subtly, the likely path that lies ahead, based on the choice of subjects or the degree course they study. It is vital to use historical data for analysis. Having been educated on what may lie ahead, they will either think again and choose another set of subjects or degree course – or be more inclined to stick to their choice and be more determined to be one of the 1 to 5% who succeed in that field (subjects or courses) that are less marketable. The thought of ending up with a McJob – flipping burgers at McDonalds or stacking the shelf at Tesco after a degree course – and doing that for years after graduating from university, was not in most people’s original plan before they went to university.
Being a responsible parent!
Being a parent is a life sentence, but, most of us, enjoy it tremendously! Many parents, including those of children in the inner city, are quite well-informed and they prioritise the notion of their children being able to get a decent job over the notion of “follow your passion”, a notion that has become so familiar these days – particularly amongst the ultra-liberal elites and middle classes. I have no problem at all with advising young people to follow their passion and study a combination of subjects, such as Art, Sociology, Media Studies, Law, Photography and the like. However, I think the parent has a responsibility to ensure that their teenager is well aware of the available set of statistics – both current and historical – on the relationship between the degree course that graduates have studied, their job prospects and long-term earning power. I like to think philosophically and I see no reason why someone should not just study a degree course for the sake of studying. I am someone with a slightly fanatical obsession about studying, but I think most people will take a more practical viewpoint than a philosophical one on this key issue.
In my next blog post article, I will look into the reason why not enough young people – including those who are very able – study as many subjects, from a diverse area, as they could have done.
I hope you enjoy reading this, and please leave a comment and I will see you in my next article.