The last few years have heard the battle cry that Americans need to get their STEM act together. We are told how low our test scores are compared to other countries. There are questions coming all the way from the President about what we major in. Not only is STEM in, but the liberal arts are under attack.
"Is it a vital interst of the state to have more anthropologists?" asked Florida's Governor Rick Scott. The premise being that a liberal education, where students learn a broad set of skills, is irrelevant in our changing economy. With liberal education being irrelevant, the liberal arts are throw out with the bath as being indulgences that Americans can no longer afford to have.
But dismissing the broad educational system that distiguished the United States during the 20th century may very well be its undoing. While America may rank low in its science and math scores, the truth is that this isn't new. Even in the 1960's America lagged behind its peers in test scores. And yet over the past 5 decades America has dominated the world of science, technology, research and innovation.
How can this be?
Because we find that being good at math and science isn't enough. Innovation comes from being brave enough to test the status quo and being creative enough to draw on multiple disciplines to make something new. That means STEM is important, but so are the liberal arts. It is a liberal education that brings them both together and exposes the student to many ways of thinking. The narrow path of technical studies may yield a country of great mathematicians and engineers, but not great leaders building great companies. That is what stimulates the economy and keeps America afloat.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba recently spoke about his beliefs on why the Chinese are not as innovative as the west. In a speech by Ma, he explains that the chinese educational system teaches the basics very well, but does not nourish a student's complete intelligence. This is what allows free range thinking and experimentation. Ma says, "Many painters learn by having fun, many works [of art] are a product of having fun."
This doesn't mean that growing skills in technology are not important. But it does mean that the value in your product or serive is its ability to connect on a human level. That is the liberal arts. STEM is important, but it takes that married with the liberal arts to make something special.
Article Via The Washington Post