Engineering or Enlightenment?

All hail the rise of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs. Let colleges and universities become job training sites instead of institutes of learning.

Maybe we want to rethink this. If it had not been for the poets, philosophers, historians, and other classically trained individuals who emigrated to the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries–those who had studied other cultures and ideas–who would have put forward the idea of revolution to build a new nation based on the idea that a government should be of the people, for the people and by the people? Without the classical scholars, there would be no freedom for the scientific community to follow their ideas into action. And even those involved in new scientific ideas are often times moved to create the things that will improve the lives of others.

Before the colonists ever thought of fighting the British to obtain their independence, they began to build what are now world class colleges to educate their children in the classic ideas that came from previous cultures. Today, more than ever, we need to educate a populace that seems to have forgotten how a democracy is supposed to work. Whose historical knowledge seems to go back no further than the last news cycle. We need a populace that can read critically and understand complex ideas and then think creatively about how to solve the issues we face as a society, as a species.

If we don’t educate people who are capable of thinking through concepts instead of just repeating what they hear from the talking heads, even those in STEM jobs will find it hard to pursue the next great invention.

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