Forget STEM, We Need MESH

The importance of media literacy, ethics, sociology and history education

Tim Wise
Our Human Family
Published in
7 min readSep 17, 2019


Image by the author, September, 2019

To hear the so-called experts tell it, America is falling behind the rest of the world in science and math.

Our high school students can’t compete and are being out-performed in such a way that threatens the future of the American economy, to say nothing of our much-cultivated national pride.

The answer, according to the same experts, is a renewed emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

More coding, and more calculus, less humanities and arts.

Some politicians suggest tying federal aid to colleges to the employment outcomes of graduates, the presumption being that art history and literature majors are destined for a lifetime of waiting tables while their engineering counterparts obtain financial security, and make a “real contribution” to the world.

But while mastery of STEM is essential to the functioning of society, it seems as though we have become so obsessed with STEM, so focused on steering young people into those fields (and judging the quality of their educations by how well they perform in these areas) that we’ve neglected other areas that are at least as important, if not more so.

STEM is critical but not enough

It is one thing to acknowledge the value of STEM subjects, but quite another to fetishize these in a way that reduces education to the mastery of specialized technical skills.

It is one thing to notice — and seek to correct — the under-representation of folks of color (and all women) in STEM fields, but quite another to suggest that everything will be fine if we can just get black kids coding and women (of whatever race) extending the horizons of string theory.

Yes, science, technology, engineering, and math will all be vital to helping us solve the looming (and quite present) ecological crisis, to say nothing of repairing critical infrastructure, becoming energy independent, and addressing any number of health-related emergencies around the globe.

But without an equal commitment to comprehensive civics education — an examination of…



Tim Wise
Our Human Family

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)