Societal Preference for STEM Over the Liberal Arts
Governments tend to claim a shortage of STEM workers (who are valued for innovation and national defense), and allocate funds for increasing the student pipeline. However, the fact that STEM wages have stagnated, and new grads struggle to find jobs casts doubt on the claim. Furthermore, the data is murky (e.g. who is classified as STEM, is a STEM degree a pre-requisite for a STEM job) that it can be massaged to support a specific policy.
A Brief History of Liberal Education
Education was first a preparation for roles to be assumed in society, e.g. hunting, ruling, fighting, etc. Innovation in government prompted an innovation in education. Athens' dream for democratic rule called for an educated populace.
Humanistic subjects, e.g. language and history, equipped the young to be politicians, courtiers, lawyers, merchants, etc. Science was a path to abstract knowledge w/o practical purpose. Students expected to take multiple subjects and relate them to one another, for it was assumed that there was a single, divine intelligence behind all of them.
Learning to Think
LA teaches one how to write, and writing makes you think, e.g. is there a logical sequence to my ideas, do the available facts support the conclusion. Of the engineers that advanced in Lockheed Martin, the most distinguishing factor was the ability to think broadly, and read and write clearly.
The best thinking occurs when ideas, fields, and disciplines collide. LA skills, e.g. flexibility, creativity, emotional intelligence, developing a hypothesis, etc., are currently hard for computers, and will not be automated away soon.
Asian countries with bent for non-LA do well economically and on PISA rankings, but don’t do as well at innovation (e.g. for VC investments as a % of GDP: #1 US, #5 Sweden, #10 Israel) and R&D as a % of GDP (#1 Israel, #4 Sweden, #10 US).
Knowledge and Power
Better lives, e.g. the average Chinese person is 40x richer and lives 30 years longer than they did 50 years ago. While much of this has been attributed to scientific advancements, LAs have spearheaded more productive economic/social/political organization.
In Defense of a Liberal Education. Fareed Zakaria. Mar 30, 2015. ISBN: 9780393247695 .
Etymology of university | Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas R. Harper. www.etymonline.com . Accessed Nov 6, 2021.
Athenian Democracy. en.wikipedia.org . Accessed Nov 6, 2021.
The STEM Crisis Is a Myth. Robert N. Charette. spectrum.ieee.org . Aug 30, 2021. Accessed Nov 6, 2021.
Student Loan Debt Statistics : Average + Total Debt. educationdata.org . Accessed Nov 6, 2021.
List of countries by research and development spending. en.wikipedia.org . Accessed Nov 6, 2021.