A KTSW sticker displays proudly on a laptop.

The Non-STEM Rebellion

By Tiger Shi
Web Content Contributor

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

This was what Darth Vader said disapprovingly in Star Wars towards an admiral who expressed arrogance and disrespect. This is also how I felt when my relatives in China and my family friends within the Chinese-American community viewed my major in mass communication and journalism as “unsatisfactory” to their standards. It is simply because it is not STEM or business/law. 

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are common majors popular amongst Asian-American students. Statistical evidence also showed that Chinese students studying abroad in the U.S. have also majored in the STEM field. This is because, for cultural reasons, parents of Asian-Americans and Asian international students viewed STEM/business as the “only” key to success. 

As a result, they have deemed other majors (non-STEM and such) as “inferior” which really annoyed students like me. This is why every time I brought this subject up with my mom, she gave me the “I told you so” tone while sounding unsupportive. My dad and her both majored in chemistry while my cousins majored in architecture. My parents’ friends aren’t different either. At every social gathering, they’d question me on why I don’t purse the STEM field. 

The truth is I just really hated math. I also hated the fact that authoritarian tiger parenting is kind of the cause for the STEM narrative to be pushed forward towards. My Chinese-American friends pursued great majors for their skill sets: Hannah (engineering), Ethan (business), Alan (biochemistry), Kevin (computer science) and Yohan (biology). I respect them and all but I want them to RETURN this favor. I’m sick of this unreal arrogance. 

Universities aren’t spared either. Whenever Texas State University was brought up at those gatherings, almost everyone seemed to look down upon me. I’m also thinking our “party school” reputation isn’t helping the matter. Anyway, I’ve gotten roasts from these “UT Austin and Aggie folks” and I was just rolling my eyes away. However, I did win in the end with a great comeback: “At least it’s better than nothing.” 

I sit down in the DJ’s seat at their studio.
I toured the studio of Anhui Traffic Radio 90.8 in China. Image by Qi Zhao.

This whole thing of STEM narrative plus tiger parenting was partially what shaped me as a potential journalist today. I passed my English and social studies courses perfectly in high school while barely passing science and math. I only got an “A” in those because my parents helped me.

Out of all Advanced Placement (AP) classes I took, I nailed down Chinese language and Macroeconomics because I speak the language fluently, duh, and I was interested in the other. For journalism itself, I chose it because of my work as a yearbook club staff member. 

To my fellow Chinese-Americans: Yes, I acknowledge that STEM degrees are easier to find a stable paying job with as well as it can change the world. However, you are ignoring and disregarding the fact that non-STEMs can be just as bright too, like me! I am fixing to find a career in TV reporting and hopefully working my way up to Washington D.C.

Yes, it is harder than STEM fields and yes, it definitely has a lower starting salary than STEM counterparts. In the end, that doesn’t mean y’all should act rude and smug about it. Look at Robert Kiyosaki (former service member and businessman), look at Kathy Park (NBC news) and look at me! Alas, according to Kiyosaki, STEM students will eventually work for us, the non-STEMS.

Featured image by Tiger Shi.

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