From Devi Vishwakumar in Never Have I Ever to Hasan Minhaj in the Patriot Act, South Asian Americans have been stereotyped to fill a “nerdy” role and associate themselves with the STEM field; however, both have veered off this concrete path. With a plethora of passions and corresponding careers, South Asian teens have many ways of exploring their interests that will someday transform into a job. Most South Asians are predisposed with a procedure to follow the science, technology, engineering, and math careers, making artistic ventures seem invisible.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Asians comprised 33% of postsecondary students who pursued a STEM bachelor’s degree in the 2015-2016 academic year. In contrast, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences stated that “in 2015, the humanities had one of the smallest proportions of Asian/Pacific Islander students completing undergraduate degrees (4.3%), falling 2.5 percentage points below the share for all fields.”
It is understandable why parents are attracted to their children pursuing STEM careers— “we have travelled thousands of miles to give our children an elevated life and we want them to make enough money to support themselves…this is why we want them to have STEM jobs”, says Abhinav Vedawala, a father of a Pakistani immigrant family. However, according to the New York Times, “the advantage of STEM majors fades steadily after their first jobs, and by the age 40 the earnings of people who majored in fields like social science or history have caught up.” By looking at this through a holistic lens, both humanities and STEM workers make almost an equal amount of money in their average working lives.
This means that the definition of “elevated” may not be as objective as first generation South Asian families think. Did these families “travel thousands of miles” just to have their children not reach the fullest creative interests?
How Does This Problem Impact Indian-American Immigrant Families?
One of the biggest consequences of this problem is that children and teens do not feel the need to take or participate in artistic endeavors. For example, teens may be inclined to take AP science classes in high school. Although art classes may be required in certain schools, students may not take these classes seriously due to the pressures at home and therefore not properly access the “right” side of their brain. By limiting the amount of information learned, these students may hinder their STEM skills in response. As said by Smriti Singh, a first generation Indian-American student, “having art class before AP Chemistry allows me to generate more creative solutions to problems which then boosts my grades.” Parents must see that having a holistic education can produce better overall learning. Furthermore, the concept of solely taking advanced classes in STEM will likely translate to STEM careers, leaving little to no room for artistic endeavors in the future.
South Asian students may also be pressured to participate in STEM related extracurricular activities. Since activities such as art club, music bands, and dance classes require additional cost for resources, parents may be more inclined to spend their money on STEM clubs. For instance, Neha Vedawala states “my parents use their budget to pay for FLBA, Model UN, and Science Olympiad conferences only. This makes me feel like I don’t have enough time and money to go to take art classes and dance lessons.” In this case, Neha is being financially and timely limited of her creative interests— “I feel like my possibility to pursuing an art career in the future is so limited because I can’t do it now.”
How To Speak To Your Parents About Your Passion For Art
If you take artistic classes in school, find mentors that can positively attribute your work to your parents.
“My graphic design teacher from school emailed my parents the progress of my work and told them I was talented…it was one of the first times they were truly impressed with my work.” – Parth Vedawala, an 11th grade Pakistani-American student
Stress the importance of comprehensive learning to your parents. For example, iterate how humanities and science go hand-in-hand.
“My painting class in school allows me to better visualize chemical particles which helps me on tests.” – Shruthi Khatri, a 10th grade Indian-American student
Use the internet to help teach yourself artistic styles and techniques if your parents do not sponsor your artistic endeavors.
“Since I have so much free time now because of the coronavirus, I have been using YouTube videos to help me learn how to better draw.” – Saloni Chabra, a 9th grade Indian-American student
Why It’s Important To Pursue The Job of Your Dreams
Pursuing your passions and internets is critically important to living a good life. According to Harvard Business Review, the Gallup World Poll reported that respondents who stated that they were satisfied with their jobs were 95% more likely to exhibit feelings of happiness. Your job comprises a significant portion of your adult life—it is essential that you pursue what you love: to make your happiness and your parents’ happiness coincide.