Monday, January 9, 2012

Humanities and the current push for "STEM" subjects

By now, every parent of a college-age or soon-to-be-college age student has heard the pundits decrying America's paucity of math-science-technology majors. We'll be left behind, they cry. The U.S. will become a has-been economy if we don't train more engineers, they warn.

This kind of talk is all very well and good, but it fails to note at least two important factors: first, not all students are going to be good at math, science, or technology-related fields; and, second, college is not meant to be vocational training. A good college education should teach students how to think, how to reason, how to make a fact-based argument, how to appreciate what has come before.

Students who major in history, political science (an oxymoron, perhaps?), literature, sociology, and other such fields learn skills that will be valuable in any occupation. They learn to read carefully to retain content, to question and keep open minds to what they may find, to research thoroughly, to pull facts and details from disparate sources to create a new argument. How can these not relate to any career anyone follows? How can these not be good for the modern American economy?

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