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In many modern societies, there has been a push in schools to emphasize the STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering and math). While there are many societal benefits such as to this educational trend, such as new technologies and scientific advancements. However, there are just as many flaws. While test scores in the sciences may look attractive, they don’t tell the whole story. To combat this growing problem, a more well-rounded style of education, such as the Liberal Arts, should be adopted. As more and more countries push the sciences, there should be an equally large push for the Liberal Arts. A more whole education is important for not only those in the STEM fields, but society a well.
Today’s society is becoming more and more reliant on technology. In turn, many countries have felt the need to educate more people capable of working in these fields. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about Japan and their recent education reforms. Japan’s “goal is to transform Japan’s government-funded universities into either global leaders in scientific research or schools focused on vocational training” and consequently, limit the study of the humanities and Liberal Arts (Obe 2). The Japanese hope to model school’s like the California Institute of Technology and maximize their tech-ready personnel. However, in doing so, the effect on the humanities and social sciences would be immense. Culture and history would no longer be taught, and it could be lost forever. Simply studying and creating technology for the sake of doing so is not beneficial to society as a whole nor the person. Is it really necessary to put TV screens in our cars? What consequences would this have on society? Questions like these are why the humanities and social sciences are a necessary part of any school, college or university. A school system lacking the human aspect of life is flawed and not complete.
Furthermore, countries that contain a high percentage of technologically based companies are not necessarily doing the best economically. In Fareed Zakaria’s Washington Post article, he illustrates the economical and educational differences from a nationwide view. Zakaria recognizes Sweden and Israel as countries with a large number of high tech companies who have also pushed the STEM fields. He also relates this to an internationally based study of foreign economics and technological advancements. Israel ranked first, the US second, and Sweden sixth in providing the world with technological advancements. Contrary to popular belief, this did not lead to them having high economic position. In the study, “all three countries fare surprisingly poorly in the OECD rankings. Sweden and Israel performed even worse than the United States on the 2012 assessment, landing overall at 28th and 29th, respectively, among the 34 most-developed economies” (Zakaria 7). Both Israel and Sweden have made leaps and bounds in regards to their STEM programs. Due to their focus on the sciences, their children score very well on standardized tests. While test scores and their technological production seems to look good on paper, it does not have the true desired effect on their respective societies.
To effectively engage and change kids into well rounded adults, we must adopt a more liberal education. All-encompassing styles of education have been highly regarded for centuries. From the days of Plato to modern philosophers like William Cronon, the benefits of Liberal Arts have transgressed time. Cronon especially notes the benefits and helpfulness the Liberal Arts endows upon its students. His list of ten benefits are extremely relevant to modern society and the workforce. His ideas are echoed by Zakaria. Zakaria makes note that simply teaching math and science is not enough. It will not matter “how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write” (Zakaria 11). This speaks volumes to the Liberal Arts. It is not necessarily what you learn in college, but how you think and grow as a person by seeing more than one perspective. That is one thing STEM education may not teach you.
As many countries begin to advance towards STEM, there needs to be an equally large look at the Liberal Arts. It is possible to learn a lot in a STEM field, yet it being a part of a Liberal Arts school or higher education. However, there is a difference between learning only your field, and learning about your field relative to the world around you. The real value of the Liberal Arts lies with the beholder, and what it truly means to be a complete human being.
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