November 12, 2018 | ° F

EDITORIAL: Variety in one's knowledge is valuable


Mix of STEM and humanities can improve world views


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Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, are vitally important for the continuing progress of humanity. For American citizens, general success in STEM fields promotes economic growth and stability — creating the basis for innovation. In the face of resurging rival sovereign powers, such as China and Russia, innovation with regard to STEM may very well play a big part in determining the future of the United States on the world stage. Considering the aforementioned, it is safe to say that we need our best and brightest American students studying subjects in STEM fields. It is the case that STEM majors are becoming increasingly popular among college students, but while STEM fields become more and more widely studied each year, the opposite is the case for the humanities. 

College is seemingly being viewed increasingly as a place for young people to master certain vocations and prepare for specific jobs, rather than as a tool for the general education and growth of individuals. People know of the increasing importance of STEM and the fact that graduates of its fields are likely to be paid significantly more, and as a result they choose to pursue these subject matters more often. While having many of our best young thinkers grow into jobs involving things like technology and engineering is something we could likely use more of, we must not forget the massive importance of the fields that come along with the humanities. Neither one is more important than the other, but rather a common proficiency in both field sets should be the goal for our nation’s students. 

Aside from the practical matters of understanding basic scientific ideas or, on the other hand, basic concepts with regard to things like business or law, a mixed field of knowledge can help us grow as people. By understanding what varying subjects have to show us about the world, we are able to become more wholesome individuals. When a person spends time studying and mastering a certain subject or field, they begin to see the world through a lens influenced by the information at the forefront of their mind. When this happens to an excessive degree in the direction of any one specific field, it can fog one’s mind. But when students have experience and knowledge of what at first glance would seem to be contradictory subjects, they may be able to understand the world in a more clear way. A philosophy major studies rather abstract concepts about the world, and this shapes their perspective. But if a philosophy major takes a class on physics — a concrete science — they may see concepts they study in philosophy, such as the possible origins of the natural world, through a different and useful lens. The same can go for, say, a mathematics major studying psychology — though they may not have a clear connection, there are overlaps with most everything. 

So both STEM and the humanities can be looked at as two parts of a whole. Too much emphasis on one rather than the other is not necessarily ideal, even in the face of the future of the world order. It is interesting to take note of the fact that the very foundation of any country or society is hatched from ideas produced through the lenses of law and philosophy — humanities fields — and these ideas allow for the manifestation of advancements in STEM. Without emphasis on ideas regarding the humanities, there may be no progress in law, social progress or governance, and without emphasis on concepts in STEM there would be no advancements with regard to civilization as a whole. So all in all, college should not be thought about as a place to master a single vocation, but rather as a place to learn as much about the world as one possibly can. 

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The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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