The biggest issue facing the American educational system today is finding a balance between the overwhelming need to increase our scientific and technical base while raising a new generation of workers to still be humans and not just beings. The main contribution that humanistic practices can offer the United States at this point is as simple as it is crucial. In short, studying the Humanities makes us more well-rounded individuals. This may seem like a trivial goal to be achieved, but take a closer look and you can find the fault in that line of thinking.
The world we are creating today is not one of endless horizons, but rather one of ever more rigid constraints. The educational system that limits the studies of its students to only their prospective career path is robbing individuals of the greater picture. It is my assertion that to become better as Americans we must continue to place increased emphasis on the sciences, but not in the way that we are doing it now.
By making a system of “cookie-cutter” degree programs that focus on creating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals to offset our current deficit, the only result we can expect is uniformity. This can be a good thing, but what if the “cookie-cutter” breaks? What if we dive too deeply into a way of doing things that we are unable to recognize when it is broken? We put on the blinders and keep chugging along this path to our supposed redemption while the rest of the world burns around us. Our great intention, putting STEM before everything, turns into our grand mistake. We fail.
Any engineer can tell you that you cannot build a structure without a solid base. So, by applying this logic to the “structure” of the American educational system it quickly becomes apparent that it is impossible to build an educational “tower” made up of only one discipline. You need a strong base and steady supports to rely on when your tower of STEM buckles in the wind. This base and these supports are the humanistic practices. Otherwise, we are doomed to create a hollow future; one where we maintain the “being” but at the same time lose the “human”.
Going forward, we need to realize the importance of having a well-rounded workforce at our disposal; a workforce that is prepared to face the challenges of an ever changing world. A workforce that is able to think creatively on their own, that does not fear the constraints that have been imposed on them by a narrow-minded structure of learning. We need those people that can understand the cultural importance of what it is they are engineering. They need to be able to communicate well and have a clear understanding of the ethics of their actions. They must draw upon the courage of the heroes of old to drive them to achieve great things while still acting logically. We need the Humanities and STEM to come together as one to lead this nation into a bright future.
The future is not easy to predict, but one thing that you can count on is that a successful future will need something more than a single-use human being. The real question here is, are we going to be able to meet that challenge?