Stop Telling Kids That A Career In The Arts Has Less Value Than Others

Oct 4, 2021

When I tell people I am a writer, there is a pause.

When my daughter mentions she wants to be an artist, there is concern.

When family friends decide on a visual arts or undeclared major, there is confusion.

In these empty spaces are the questions: what are you going to do with that? How are you going to support yourself with that career? Can you monetize that passion?

The underlying message is that arts are fine as a hobby, but you have to pursue a “real” program or career to be a success.

I’m here to say that as much as I support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), and women in STEM in particular, the arts are not just a hobby. I believe they need to be supported as bona fide career choices in their own right, while kids are still life planning and considering future career opportunities. 

Basically, I think the arts are all right. 

An oldie but a goodie: using recyclables, and an invitation for play, try a STEM challenge with kids who are interested in making things.


I find the STEM fields fascinating, and am sad that women have ever been discouraged from entering these fields.

I wholeheartedly support anyone pursuing schooling and careers in these areas, but only if they want to. Not just because they show aptitude in math and sciences, but because this is what their minds clamour to learn more about.

I was a high school student who did well in math and science. I was encouraged to apply for engineering programs, which did not interest me in the slightest. Never have I looked at a machine or invention and longed to pull it apart, or wondered how it functioned apart from the abstract, as in — I have no idea how that works and I am grateful someone else figured it out.

My wonder was reserved for the type of minds that could disassemble machines and build them again, or invent new ways of doing things.

No, my interests and passions were deeply rooted in writing, publishing, the outdoors and sociological experiences. When I proclaimed my ideas for postsecondary pursuits in journalism, outdoor recreation or writing, I was steered firmly away from these areas and back into the sciences. It was the beginning of the big push for STEM, and back then, there was little acknowledgment of STEAM or STREAM.

But here’s what is happening now — STEM has morphed into STEAM, with the A for arts, and STREAM, with the R for reading and writing.

A passion has been reignited for arts education, and crafts like writing. 

You Can Go Your Own Way

I’m happy to see the arts being recognized again in this way and hope it spreads beyond the curriculum and into society and the workforce.

It has felt like we are moving away from an appreciation of art, writing, language and creative expression. I see ads for AI (artificial intelligence) copywriters and I want to weep. I feel longing for the Renaissance and all of the support and focus that was heaped on the arts. I don’t feel the love these days at all.

But I’ve been guilty of almost sabotaging artistic interests as well.

When my daughter tells me she wants to be an artist, I catch myself thinking, “OK, she can be a graphic designer – there’s a career path there.” When I hear of someone studying English or wanting to be a writer, my internal dialogue has often defaulted to, “There are lots of jobs as communications professionals, that’s fine.”

I’ve tried to stop that. I’ve tried to stop qualifying dreams and making passions fit into career compartments.

But it's not easy.

Afraid Of Going Without

I can’t speak for all of society, but I think a shared concern is how certain choices — pursuing an artist’s lifestyle, for example — is going to translate into paying bills and supporting oneself or even a family.

We don’t want our kids to go without. Neither do we want to support them forever.

But I don’t think there's a need to place parameters on a child's interests. To future plan so much that I set expectations or guarantees of their success. They could aspire to have a mortgage, and they could not. They will likely learn for themselves what sacrifice entails. Someone might have a low paying job that they love and have to forego a larger house or a more expensive car. Someone else might be raking in the dough but be completely unfulfilled in their career. Part of life is figuring this out through a series of false steps and bold leaps.

For those interested in STEAM, here's an idea: a STEAM cart for your home that kids can use to create works of art.

Diverse Career Opportunities

I also take offense to the idea touted, as was done when I was a teen, that there are no jobs in certain fields.

There are jobs in the arts. They exist in creating, teaching, writing, counselling, producing and so much more.

When I think of two mainstays of the pandemic, I think of Netflix and counselling. Let’s address the latter topic first. I can think of so many passionate young people who were discouraged from studying psychology or sociology because there were no jobs.

Have you tried to find a therapist lately? Good luck. They’re all booked up. And certified counsellors don’t have to matriculate through science-heavy programs or medical schools. Psychology and sociology programs, or even the arts in general, are great programs to feed into post-graduate counselling programs.

And Netflix. Where does a great TV show start? With an idea and a script, courtesy of the “you’ll never find a job” writers.

There may not be an endless supply of these jobs, but they exist competitively for those looking to take the leap. Diffusing a child's passion early might ensure that they never feel capable of even being considered.  

Those undeclared major students? I envy the variety of subjects they have learned, the diverse range of classes they've taken. Their brains are awash with experience and ideas, and I think it's a bit foolish to so quickly dismiss this path. A variety of jobs provide all the training required. All you need is a mind that’s ready to learn.

So, parents, kids — you may know what you want to do in life. You may not have a clue. It may change many times. If STEM is your thing, that’s fabulous. If you want to go into the arts, do that. Let’s stop killing our kids’ dreams before they’ve even had a chance to take shape.

Let’s renew our library books, and while we’re at it, let’s kick off a new Renaissance.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. She offers writing workshops for teens and adults at The Writing Nook.

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