The Sept. 11 Business article “Humanities majors look back with most regret” contained any number of basic truths: that many college graduates leave school buried in debt; that STEM degree holders are likely to earn substantially more upon graduation than holders of humanities degrees; and, as a result, debt-burdened college graduates who majored in the humanities, where pay is lower, tend to be unhappy with their choice of majors when they face the financial consequences of their decision.

But the article only passingly acknowledged the social and personal value of study in the humanities — and that, over time, the marginal difference in pay tends to even out. The problem, then, seems to lie less in the importance of the humanities than in the debt graduates carry into their working careers.

Perhaps the lesson should be that if students want to major in history or English — a fine decision in its own right — they should do it at a place where the costs are commensurate with their future earning power.

Jesse Stiller, North Bethesda

The Sept. 11 article “Humanities majors look back with most regret” conflated data and interviews to paint a picture of humanities majors as plagued by regret because they can’t find well-paying jobs as do STEM majors. There are factors outside of job-hunting that lead to this.

To use myself as an example, I graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing but am retraining in medical coding. This is not because of regret but because, even in our modern remote-work-friendly age, it is nearly impossible to secure full-time employment in publishing outside of New York. Add in that broader American culture has, for decades if not centuries, mocked and devalued art and literature and the values of kindness and empathy that studying them imparts, and it’s no wonder I have to retrain just to earn a stable living.

These degrees are not lesser because they do not involve shiny STEM skills. The world wouldn’t be the mess it’s in if, say, politicians actually read “1984” in high school rather than just emptily invoking its premise.

Tom Speelman, Highland, Ind.

Reducing the value of a degree to its economic worth is a damning social view of education. It’s also a damning reflection of economic values. Learning is a scam when you are taught money is the only value. College is a losing proposition when it’s married to unpayable debt. The humanities are pointless degrees when their pursuit guarantees a scramble to cobble together living conditions. This is the ideological trajectory of a society that is giving up on change. These ideas, this data, this despair should not be consumed as an indictment of “low-paying,” “regrettable” liberal arts skill sets. It should be heard as a howl for help. It’s a cry to reform reality. To study the humanities and be unable to make a living is a reflection of inhumane societal conditions.

“Regrettable” disciplines study what happens to societies that stop valuing art and the humanities. To dismiss art and the humanities is to dismiss history and wisdom. It debilitates the future. It’s a frail perspective that fails to see how our most imminent dangers (a random selection: the climate crisis, growing thirst for authoritarianism, corporate greed) demand more than STEM solutions. Of course we need STEM. Equally urgently, we need humanities knowledge applied to those issues. Consider what conditions led to the data before citing the numbers in “most regretted” as reasons to perpetuate under-supporting education, arts and humanities. Regret the socioeconomic setup, not the educational value. Data is only as valuable as its context.

Lydia Hadfield, Frederick