I did not spend my summer working in a lab at UCLA, but that doesn’t mean what I did with my time was worthless. If you’re passionate about the sciences and you work as a research assistant, that’s fantastic. Every summer, my classmates are injecting rats’ eyeballs at USC or in an internship program at Children’s Hospital.
They seem to learn a lot from the graduate students and surgeons who supervise them, and it must be incredible to get that kind of access and experience even as a high school student.
If you’re interested in the humanities, however, it’s much more complicated.
For one thing, there are far fewer opportunities for humanities research available, particularly at the high school level.
On every college tour, student representatives tout the wide-ranging opportunities available for English and history majors to do research, but there are far fewer school-supported options here.
As a senior, you can do an independent study – if your schedule isn’t too heavy already, if you find a faculty member who is willing to support you, if you can get it approved and find the necessary resources on your own.
Marlborough School started a program to help its students find research positions in scientific fields. Two years after its inception, the program expanded to include the humanities with the Honors Research in Humanities and Social Sciences Program.
Thanks to the program, Marlborough students have worked at the Hammer Museum, USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the Political Science Department at UCLA, to name but a few positions.
Perhaps the fledgling HW Works program will grow to include humanities research opportunities for Harvard-Westlake students, but in the meantime, you’re on your own.
I worked at a public radio station as the Assistant Producer for a news analysis show, but I certainly didn’t get a citation for curing Alzheimer’s.
I think this is indicative of a larger problem. So often, it seems that STEM fields are weighed far more heavily than languages or history. You can start taking honors science and math classes as early as ninth grade, yet there are no advanced English or history options until two years later. Even then, there is a much wider variety of sciences and many more levels of math than of any humanities discipline.
More classes means more class periods, leading to more flexibility in scheduling math or science classes. It becomes much easier to add AP Biology than AP World History, and the cycle feeds on itself and repeats.
I realize this is an immemorial complaint – one without an easy solution and fraught with many more considerations than I probably know. At the very least, though, the school could benefit from a more egalitarian attitude when weighing these two areas of study.
Math-science subjects are not inherently more valuable or more important than any other discipline. A cultured and civilized society needs both the arts and the sciences to thrive.
I applaud those students who pursue their scientific passions, but we should remember that the humanities are important too.