I recently read an article on TES.com that criticized the overemphasis on STEM education over humanities. Last year’s Global Teacher winner, Nanci Atwell, was quoted in the article as saying, “While science, math and technology certainly do matter a lot, they don’t matter the most…Emphasizing Stem at the expense of the humanities is… a risky model. It narrows students’ world-view and their career options, by shrinking the curriculum and the potential for innovation.”
I concur with this analysis that we should not place too much importance on some subjects over others, especially at the primary and even secondary school levels because it will limit the appreciation of our humanity and connection to various cultures and people. Thus it will also have us overlook the intersection of humanities with technology and science and I would argue that throughout history, it was this intersection that created some of the most profound advancement. It is the difference between improving the Human Experience vs the Human Condition.
The Human Experience is focused on, as I see it, seeking and obtaining more enjoyment, fun, cognitive stimulation, altruistic endeavors (in a limited sense) and convenience in our lives. The Human Condition is focused on improving and providing for our basic needs. As you and Ross Baird write, there seems to be a limitation on solving for more complicated issues. Organizations want to help, but maybe not solve. Solving problems at their root cause would be addressing the Human Condition — whether it is clean water or access to food — The focus that we are seeing is on the Human Experience, creating apps and technology which can be understandingly more interesting to this and the next generation. I see it as a disconnect because we are not leveraging our 21st century technology to solve 19th and 20th century problems that still continue to exist, even in First World Countries-however, for most they see the 21st Century as a time to focus on the Human Experience and not the Human Condition.
As I started this response, I noted the educator raising concern that math and science education is pushing out humanities. For many individuals who are not confronted with problems of clean water or lack of food, they may not even think that these problems are still very prominent. And as we are seeing, these issues may be closer to home than we know, but again, it always seems to be a problem somewhere else for someone else. And as you both noted, raising money in a charitable sense provides assistance for those large scale problems, but only to the point where it is a “one and done” for most of us and we move on . And not to undermine the importance of feeling positive about our good deed, it most definitely allows for more improvement on the Human Experience, which is important for a healthy society. The issues affecting the Human Condition, however, are being overlooked in many times, as you both indicate, for either a more simplistic solutions (“the one and done”) or focus on more the Human Experience which gets more attention in the 21st century.