Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.
The series is a joint guest blog series with two participants of the Young Playwright Programme, Jessica O’Brien and Róisin O’Donnell.
Let Creativity STEM
All my life I have been aware of what subjects defined me as ‘intelligent’ and what made me ‘subordinate’ by the education system.
Since I made the jump from primary school to secondary school I have become increasingly aware of the differences between myself and the students who excel in STEM subjects. It’s pretty clear what careers are portrayed as sensible, high intelligence careers, as careers in the arts are simply never discussed. STEM subjects include science, technology, engineering and mathematics- and recently I have noticed what a huge effort is being made to promote careers in these subjects, especially as my school is all female. We have been visited by countless representatives encouraging us to begin a career in a STEM subject and we have had several different weeks in school dedicated to science and maths. I believe this is hugely positive and will inspire us girls with the message that we too can hold positions of power in careers dedicated to these subjects- but I do think that those who are genuinely not interested in these subjects are being tossed aside.
Despite science being a choice in my school, I am constantly made to feel like it was never my choice to drop it. There have never been weeks dedicated to the students that excel in the arts. Yes, there are classes available, but they were hard fought for and aren’t treated as important by those who don’t participate in them. I spoke to my art teacher at an open night once, and she told me that parents would approach her, and ask her if ‘art was really that hard.’ My music teachers have only recently been given time slots for practicing for our carol service that is one of the biggest events on our school calendar. This would never happen with any other subjects. I was at a meeting being on our school’s magazine team. Our teacher didn’t show up to the meeting, which was a regular occurrence, but we decided we were going to power through on our own and show the school what we could do. But that couldn’t happen now. We were told the school didn’t have the funding for the 6 extra pages we wanted to produce. Yet our school bank gets hundreds to rent in famous guests to hype up their work. Our school has an annual run to pay for a new running track for sport. Our science labs are always stocked for experiments and our art classrooms are used as supply cabinets whenever people need to make posters. If you want to work hard in schools in a subject to do with the arts, you are pretty much on your own. I feel that the way people who work hard in these creative subjects are treated is really offensive. Music, art, and all other creatively based subjects are also fulfilling and big earning careers. The world needs them just as much as it needs scientists and engineers. Would you turn around to a world famous actor and chastise them for not becoming a mathematician?
Jessica was a participant in the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre which was a recipient of the Arts in Education Portal 2018 Documentation Award.