STEM courses just as important
The Herald-Dispatch recently editorialized about the need for a stronger commitment to higher education. I couldn’t agree more, but I am a little concerned about the stated HEPC policy which will provide greater funding to colleges and universities for courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
There is a need for students in STEM majors; it is also important to realize that courses in the liberal arts, fine and media arts, education, health and business are just as valuable. There seems to be a misperception that these courses are not as important to a student’s future. Using Census Data, Deming (2017) found that between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring a high level of social interaction grew by 12 percent, while many of the math-intensive positions including many STEM careers, dropped by 3.3 percent. A December 2017 Department of Education study of 25,000 students found that STEM majors are more likely to change their majors than non-STEM majors within three years. Further, 52 percent of math majors and 40 percent of natural science majors changed their majors; this was higher than any non-STEM major. Is it wise to push students into majors that they might not succeed in?
Non-STEM courses teach us to examine ourselves and others, recognize the differences in those around us, negotiate through conflict to develop the best decisions and look at a problem from multiple perspectives.
The relationship between STEM and non-STEM courses is not mutually exclusive. A failure to recognize the importance of the humanities and social sciences can only result in disaster. Strong written and oral communication skills combined continue to be the number one priority of employers and these skills are largely found in non-STEM courses.
Yes, we definitely need a stronger commitment to higher education in West Virginia. Let us not forget that this should be a well-rounded education. It should not be a matter of pitting STEM and non-STEM areas against each other.
Dr. Barbara Tarter