Monday, March 30, 2015

The role of STEM in American Education

From the Washington Post: Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous

Fareed makes some very good points about over emphasizing STEM in the American education system. Especially about how the American economy has for long been powered by people 

However, I think this piece is best viewed as a long term warning then it is a current problem. Our education system is far from STEM dominated. The pendulum may be swinging away from humanities and towards STEM but its still heavily on the side of humanities. 

In my opinion we still need a stronger presence of math, science, and engineering (and foreign languages) and at younger ages. Its simply a matter of keeping up with the times. For example, a student passionate about creative writing benefits tremendously from having some knowledge and exposure to computer programming just as a writer 50 years ago would benefit from having some knowledge of the publishing industry.

The American education system has been stagnant for too long. We need to keep it current and diverse. This means retaining the framework of liberal education but increasing the array of skills being taught. Creative thinking and problem solving remain the cornerstones but they must be viewed through the lens of the internet and service based economy as opposed to a manufacturing economy. 

Some excepts:

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?”asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” 
How can a Governor make such a prediction? There is no way to know where the next growth industry will come from, it could be anthropology students who found the next big thing. This is why a liberal education system is necessary, because we shouldn't be relying on top down decision making (somethign Rep. have always shunned). Instead, let the peoples own creativity loose.

Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy.
In our modern economy synergy and cross fertilization happen on the internet one way or another and are driven by data - which requires statistical analysis to understand. Now more then ever math and science are needed for a liberal education system to succeed.