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Are Math and Science the Only Subjects Worth Studying?

Are Math and Science the Only Subjects Worth Studying?

 

Are some school subjects intrinsically better or more worthwhile than others? Probably not, but from an employment perspective students would do well to concentrate on science and math-related subjects. Even with an unemployment rate of around 8%, there are an estimated 600,000 unfilled jobs in the manufacturing sector alone. Employers simply can’t find people with the right skill sets to perform these jobs.

Training in STEM subjects–science, technology, engineering, and math–could lead students to ready employment, and even to jobs that boast a hefty salary. According to USA News, the hardest jobs to fill are skilled positions, “including well-compensated blue collar jobs like machinists, operators, and technicians, as well as engineering technologists and scientists.”

The result of this deficit in technologically skilled workers is a push for students to pursue degrees in STEM-related fields. President Obama hopes to add 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to the U.S. public school system to foster interest in the sciences, while private organizations plan to develop solutions to the job crisis in the STEM sector.

If there are so many unfilled jobs out there, why aren’t students pursuing them? Some aren’t interested in the fields available. Many are unaware of services and industries that may provide employment. And many feel that their high school and college coursework left them unprepared for jobs in these industries. This brings the problem back to our school system and the lack of quality STEM teachers in schools across the country.

While it is clearly critical to fill these jobs and lower the unemployment rate, I wonder how effective a big push on students to study STEM subjects will be. If all the attention, resources, and funding get routed over to the sciences, will kids interested strictly in the humanities get left behind? I saw some evidence of this at my own college, which built a brand new science center and turned into pre-med city while we were falling through rotten floorboards in the English classrooms.

Rather than touting the merits of one subject over another, I think we need to reevaluate the purpose of education — which is not just about getting a job, but also gaining fulfillment and satisfaction as a human being. Well-rounded curricula will introduce students to a variety of different subjects, and help them develop their personal interests without a governmental agenda or parental pressure. That way, they will be free to become scientists– or not.

 

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84 comments

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2:17PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

I hate the argument that "art must be included!"

Art is intrinsic to human nature. Give a kid some crayons and paper and they will make "art". You cannot, however, give a kid some crayons and paper and have them figure out how to make penicillin.

Art is important to the soul, but it is everywhere. Nature is art. If we got rid of every art, music, and writing program from our schools, I guarantee you we would not actually be bereft of art in ten years. If we got rid of every science and math program, in ten years we'd be in a heckuva hurt.

I say this as a scientist AND an artist. With one semester of art training under my belt I have filled my walls with art easily. With ten years of science background I cannot make my own penicillin (easily).

9:02PM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

I would like to see ethics and compassion taught in schools alongside the math/science and the arts. these things don't seem to be taught in the home. I don't care how well educated you are, if you have no compassion and don't conduct your life in an ethical manner.

9:30PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Might not a science-and-math-only curriculum prove excellent
training for AI-caused redundancy?

12:55PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

art, music, dance, poetry.. all the color and joy in the world must be included. nothing against STEM. it is not an answer. art, architecture, music..fields of endeavor that grab a child's (person's) imagination and creativity is what will ensure innovation, invention, ingenuity and lead to brilliant solutions to our dilemmas.

12:34PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

@ Alex H. "I am appalled that anyone would think such a thing up! What do we want,a race of scientific boffin technobots running the world with no imagination!"

Is there a REASON why you think that teaching Math and Science would mean ignoring imagination and history?

I understand that some people jump to conclusions. And I see a lot of bi-polar thinking on subjects like Energy and the Environment.

But I don't understand why emphasizing math would lead to "scientific boffin technobots".

Oddly, the only other time I've heard this argument was from a committed Conservative, a college teacher, who claimed that the Germans had turned away from "the humanities" to pursue technology, and when the Nazis came along they didn't have the collective empathy to reject the calls to Patriotism over Compassion.

I think this was a short-sighted argument. The Nazis tapped into bigotry that was already there. Teaching "the Humanities" can't overcome bigotry overnight. It's taken centuries to put that past us.

What America needs, is manufacturing. Making the stuff we need, ourselves.

And that requires math skills.

What's the alternative? Can you imagine any way to base an Economy on "the Humanities" ?

I'll tell you, Asia has figured out that Math and Science is the key to manufacturing, and growth. THEY aren't slacking off. Whereas here, you can be kicked out of an exam just by having a better calculator.

10:41AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Without the arts there will be no creative thinking, just robots, and that is actually what the U.S.has been working toward for a long time and Canada is following. Very scary. Personally, I think the arts are the absolute most important and every individual will find their niche and then they can study further whatever subjects most interest them.

I find the world is going in a direction that is absolutely terrible and I am grateful I am old because I really do not care if I drop over this moment. I don't want to see the future because is not good due to the lack of interest in and respect for the arts.

2:17AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Betsy M., Luvenia B., and Carl O. -- Thank you for your excellent comments. Ridiculous that Care2 won't let me send you more than green star per week, no matter how much you deserve them.

2:13AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I wish they would teach, along with math, science, language arts, etc., not only more dance, music, art, and public speaking, but also real nutrition (not the AMA kind), effective communication (assertive communication and active listening), how to function well is society, human relationships, how to think critically about issues, and so on. Having all the academic topics separate from the arts, humanities, and how to live in healthy and fulfilling ways produces compartmentalized people...

scientists who are lousy in personal relationships; teachers who believe that since vaccinations supposedly prevent disease, they must protect vaccinated children from unvaccinated ones; people who get a lot of As, but are socially withdrawn; people who can read, write, and do math, but can't be peaceful in marriages; people who value popular music, but not academics; and so on.

1:25AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I think understanding science and math are integral to living well and making better choices in life.

1:23AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I don't know, when I was in college the strongest emphasis was on Math, Science and Literacy(reading, composition and logic). In elementary shcool I was not fond of math, curiously, I really began to understand the mechanics of math that makes all sciences meaningful and really embraced it. I did very well in college. I got a very good job in my science field which made my life alot easier to manage. I have also made better choices in my life because of my education. I have learned to weigh the facts(what am I being asked to believe) vs. jumping(usually in the wrong direction) due to emotion.

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