Studies have shown that education that balances STEM and the humanities not only improves cognition, but also improves their career success, which led the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to start advocating for colleges to bridge the gap between STEM and the humanities in education.

The Decline of the Humanities

The number of college students who graduate with a degree in the humanities has declined sharply in recent years, as more and more students have sought degrees in STEM instead, partly because they believe there are more job opportunities in the science and engineering fields. This has led many academic institutions to reduce funding for humanities programs. Some schools have even started to eliminate entire major programs within the humanities, such as philosophy and foreign language. The 2008 financial crisis sped up the decline of the humanities. Most elite colleges are keeping the humanities as part of the curriculum for STEM majors, but state universities are shifting away from humanities because of financial concerns.

Why Do We Need to Bridge the Gap?

More recently people see college as job training, so they focus in on the technical skills developed in STEM courses. However, most people underestimate the importance of having a broader education. If you want to advance your career and take on leadership roles, you need more than technical skills. You need to understand politics, economics, and ethics. Soft skills like communication are also becoming more critical. STEM students can sometimes have an unrealistic view of the world; seeing things from an exclusively rational perspective and believing science can solve any problem. Coursework in the social sciences and humanities helps expose students to the complexities of society.

Communication is a major concern at this point in time. Most science courses have considerably less writing assignments than courses in the humanities. But part of being an effective scientist is being able to communicate your findings to others. Moreover, students who have a broad education that balances STEM and the humanities tend to have better critical thinking skills.

Bridging the gap between STEM and the humanities is an important step in ensuring the future success of organizations within the STEM field. The first step is to help young professionals and students understand that their first jobs are likely going to be temporary. As they progress in their careers and take on more responsibilities, they will need the communication skills, ethical training, and knowledge of economics, politics, history, and other subjects you can only learn by studying the humanities.


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