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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