Math and Science

A Perspective on the Direction of Stem

With dependence on technology, need for innovative medical advancements, and the demand for computational mathematics rapidly rising, the number of STEM majors has increased astronomically. In fact, the BLS reports that employment in STEM jobs is expected to grow a whopping 9 million by 2022 [1].

STEM is generally defined as “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” Since the field has expanded – with over a 100 occupations ranging from computer systems analysts to Physical and Life Scientists – many are finding that STEM careers provide a both lucrative and reliable source of income. So it’s no surprise that many seek proficiency in STEM fields not out of passion, but out of the desire to guarantee a stable source of income.

In fact, a growing commonality among med school students in particular is an external motivation – money, recognition, familial responsibility – beyond a love for medicine [2]. These students find themselves faced a difficult decision: give up on med school and change their entire career path, or force themselves to push forward and graduate med school.

Those who change their career paths might regret it at first (after all, they gave up what could have been a fruitful and profitable medical career) but they soon follow their true passion, which is surely better than late nights memorizing complicated biological processes and treatments. But what happens to those that decide to stick it out?

Most will survive, but few will thrive. They might get the acclaim and money that they desired, but every day of work will feel like just that – work. But most importantly, they will be doing a disservice to their patients – the very people they took a Hippocratic oath to protect. A doctor who loves his profession not for monetary reward, but since he can go to bed every night knowing he made the world a little better, will always be able to do his job better than one who doesn’t.

A contributor towards the next generation of dispassionate STEM professionals could very well be the direction of high school curriculum. More and more high schools are striving to emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, consequently deemphasizing the importance of humanities. As a result, students go to college thinking of majoring in STEM, because it is what they are familiar with. After all, it is what they spent the past 4 years learning, whether they liked it or not. If no one had the chance to study Art History or Greek in high school, how could they know they’d love it more than math or science?

What America needs is to change its perspective on STEM education. Sure, technology and medicine are advancing, but we need more than exposure to biology and advanced computer skills to keep up. We need the creative thinkers, writers and reasoners that are products of a humanities education to be architects of the future alongside computer programmers and doctors.

Sources:

[1] https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art01.pdf

[2] http://www.medicalschoolsuccess.com/the-most-important-thing-ive-learned-in-medical-school/

[3] https://www.google.com/urlsa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwip2Jipjo7WAhXHbSYKHYohB80QjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.shutterstock.com%2Fvideo%2Fclip-4640702-stock-footage-close-up-of-a-microscope-in-a-medical laboratory.html&psig=AFQjCNFnIRuJVPp0Eqs8NMLGSTqC0PpWsg&ust=1504703183909106