In his recent Big Think article ”A Tech Geek on Why We Need the Humanities,” Jason Gots challenges the idea that technology is the end-all and be-all of human efficiency. He warns us not to get so swept up in the STEM education hype that we lose a crucial subject area that doesn’t fit the acronym: the arts and humanities.
Nationwide, as a result of America’s dismal performance on global measures of math and science education, there’s a billion-dollar push for STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. As with all educational reform movements, this one is set to throw the baby out with the bathwater, steamrolling over those curricular areas that don’t fit the acronym and aren’t so easily quantified – i.e. the arts and humanities. Uninformed by the human empathy and awareness that are the raison d’etre of these disciplines, technology is ethically neutral at best, anti-human at worst. But with the liberal arts as its animating spirit, technology’s potential benefits are limitless.
Gots then shares two Big Think videos, both by STEM-skilled experts on why the humanities are crucial in American curricula. The first is by technology expert John Seely Brown, who argues that the humanities are necessary in order for us to maintain innovation in the United States. “And I think the humanities have some responsibility,” Brown says, “of actually figuring out how to help us imbue nuance into how we see the world.”
The second video is by physicist Michio Kaku, who notes that because technology has allowed us to create machines that function like humans in robots, in the future, the only jobs left for humans will be those that robots can’t perform — jobs that require creativity and imagination. “If your job involves creativity, imagination, innovation, thinking, experience, leadership, hey… there’s a bright future for you,” says Kaku. “Because the economy itself is changing from commodity-based capital to intellectual capital. Intellectual capital cannot be mass produced. You cannot mass produce the brain.”
What do you think of keeping the humanities in the curriculum? Is STEM education the most important issue facing our country’s schools right now, or will the humanities STEAMroll those initiatives? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet your thoughts to @Technapex or @ce_doyle.