In the ever changing world of higher education today, critical questions continue to be raised about the value of STEM based education. There is a consistent claim that STEM subjects are more valuable in today’s digital economy and culture than a traditional liberal arts major such as philosophy or history. Matter of fact is, STEM has always been more prominent and practical than liberal arts. Have you ever considered how often we experience STEM in our lives? Science is our natural world, technology means computers, cell phones, ease of living, engineering designs and builds infrastructures, and mathematics is the back bone of our economy. STEM is more important than liberal arts because it runs every aspect of our lives. It is the past, present, and the future.
Let’s take a step back in time and look at how STEM has shaped humanity. Whether it is man’s first discovery of fire or the birth of artificial intelligence, technological advances has always been a huge catalyst for human success and advancement. The electric light liberated us from a near total reliance on daylight. Discovery of penicillin saved the lives of millions of people and paved the road to amazing medical advancements. Before such things as satellites and global positioning systems, there was the compass. The compass allowed for humans to traverse the world and navigate the oceans. Then came the steam engine, which is the foundation of our current transportation methods and allowed humans to take to the skies. These are just some of many examples of the affects that STEM has already had on human development (Andrew). Imagine if our earliest ancestors had not discovered how to control fire and make tools. We as a species would not be where we are today.
In our current day to day lives, we are highly dependent on the use of technology. With the technological advancements over the years, it has completely changed the way we live, the way we communicate, and the way we travel. Many take for granted the day to day necessities that is privileged to us such as electricity and running water. On a constant basis, the infrastructures that make sure we are getting these necessities are maintained by engineers and technicians. Most importantly, there is the worldwide web, which has revolutionized our way of communication and information exchange. Ease of travel has also played a large role in industrializing our cities and helping them grow. We can easily and efficiently transport goods throughout the nation and get them where they are in demand. There is a reason why STEM is currently enjoying such fame and support. It is the life blood of our current system and will continue into our future.
If we are to consider the closest things to us, our children. STEM is their future. It will be the technological age in which they will live and their best career options. In the blog done by Edward J. Ray about the value of liberal arts, he mentions that one third of all fortune 500 companies have a degree in liberal arts. “We do know that a third of all Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees” (Ray). Now that is amazing, but it is irrelevant to the debate. If you were to compare the amount of liberal arts majors to the amount of success that someone can or has achieved with them, you will see that it is much lower than that of STEM majors. Not to mention, who really runs these fortune 500 companies? Who works out the finances, the logistics, and the infrastructures to house the goods and employees? Important roles and jobs such as these are run by none other than STEM majors. Who else can determine how much money you can afford to pay employees and charge for your product to make profit? As these companies grows, the need for STEM will grow with them.
On the other hand some have argued that employers are looking for liberal arts majors because of their ability to work well with others and critical thinking skills. “At the same time employers readily identify the creative, communicative and problem-solving acumen traditionally associated with liberal arts majors as the most valuable attributes of new hire.” (McNutt). They also argue that liberal arts teaches people to be more creative, “…complaining about the inflexibility of a workforce educated without a focus on creativity or problem solving…” (Christ).
Although liberal arts is important and there is a definite need for it, STEM is more essential and deserves priority over liberal arts. When it comes to creativity, critical thinking and teamwork, STEM can do just as well if not better. For example, the creation of the atomic bomb. It required many scientist to work together and involved a great deal of critical thinking. Also, an idea of splitting an atom when it has never been done before is revolutionizing in itself. They were able to do all this not because of liberal arts education, but because they all have the same goal of defying the norm. When it comes to creativity, critical thinking and teamwork, STEM is so much better. As seen throughout history, the potential for STEM is limitless. It breaks barriers and leads to better human development.