The order of subjects in the title is directly proportional to the degree of “intelligence” in descending order.

Allow me to elaborate, straight A’s, 95% student, you have to take Science; good to average grades, be on the safe side, take Commerce; disinterested, horrid grades? You take Arts, because you will not be able to cope with the “pressure”.

I am not saying this, society around me is. I’d like to call this the ‘95% Stereotype’.

Let me quote some recurring statements that do the rounds whilst a Science.Commerce.Arts debate:

#1 Me: “Why are you taking Science?”

Confused Pal’s Concerned Uncle: “Beta, there’s more scope.”

There’s more scope? Do you mean, after a few months of Science, you’re going to drop to the Commerce stream and then God forbid, the ARTS!

While I am not denying the confusion that teenagers typically go through while making such a decision, questioning their worth in the world, and other such deep philosophical fancies, please note that the “scope” is no less in the Commerce and Arts (it is actually Humanities) streams that people so often find degrading. In today’s day and age, you don’t need to take up a particular stream of subjects to “play it safe”. The world isn’t solely dependent on one of these streams. Success isn’t limited by the boundaries of one subject.

#2 School Teacher: “Oh Hello, how have you been? Which college? What was your percentage?

Elated Friend: “Ma’am I got 95.2%”

School Teacher: “That’s great! Taken up Science?”

Fake-Smiling Friend: “Umm.. No Ma’am, Humanities”

Hello old friend, the 95% Stereotype. Stereotypes are generalized beliefs about characteristics of a particular group. Consequently, members of those groups are perceived to have these characteristics, which an individual may not necessarily possess. The generalized belief is that if you have outstanding grades you must opt for the Science stream, which is followed by the assumed thought that all students with good grades opt for Science, and all Science students have high grades. Though this seems a bit oversimplified, it is the bitter truth. Upon close observation, there a few alarming consequences I took note of.

The relation between grades and choice of career is not totally avoidable; but does not deserve the attention it receives. Falsified assumptions about choice of stream and factors like grades, “playing it safe”, scope of subjects is only intensifying a stereotype which robs value from each of the streams and aids in spreading incorrect information and half told truths. These stereotypical notions have created a hierarchy of subjects. This hierarchy is substantiated by social influence that plays a big factor while choosing a career path. Social influence is the process by which actions and decisions of an individual are affected by behavior of another individual or a group. Where there are groups, there are certain said or unsaid group norms, which are expectations, regarding the behavior of members belonging to the group. Teenagers on the verge of career decision-making, often fall prey to these group norms, because no one wants to be looked on with questioning faces in the society. Thus, passion is oftentimes sacrificed to adhere to this ridiculous hierarchy because nobody wants to be in the lowest rung now, do they? And I have not even begun to talk about other artistic professions; we’ll save that for another day.

Though it may not be overtly observable (yet), this subject stereotyping similar to other stereotypes leads to a phenomenon know as the self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-fulfilling prophecies are expectations about the occurrence of a future event or a behavior that actually increases the likelihood the event/behavior will occur. For example, if people think and treat an individual choosing the Humanities stream in a way that they are not determined enough, it may actually result in undetermined behavior.  It irks me when I notice how negative personal opinions and judgments towards a stream influence the choices of another individual. Thus, concerned comrades, a little freedom perhaps?

Therefore, dear fast growing economy, developing nation and progressing society, taking cue from another hierarchy that continues to sting India, isn’t it time we eradicated this subject hierarchy?

Disclaimer: This isn’t an attack ambitious Science aspirants, there are many (I definitely know plenty) who are doing wonders in the Scientific field; it is an attempt to break the bonds of the ‘95% Stereotype’.

Radhika Sethi 

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