I love technology. I really do. But who doesn’t, these days? Just think of all the things that technology allows for, all the things that we couldn’t do before, all the things that it has replaced. Just one example: think of all the things the smartphone in your pocket has replaced:
- landlines and payphones
- photo cameras
- MP3 players
- portable gaming consoles
- alarm clocks
- remote controls
- photo albums
Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of emphasis is being put on the introduction of robust STEM programs in our schools, at all levels, worldwide: educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects.
Admittedly, that emphasis is justified for (at least) two reasons:
- the number of STEM-related jobs is expected to grow twice as fast as jobs in other fields over the next five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills
- the National Center for Education Statistics states that of the 3.8 million high school freshmen in the U.S., only 233,000 pursue a STEM degree in college
Which means that in technology-based economy and society, we do not have enough students interested in STEM, which also means not enough well-trained graduates are available to be hired by companies -a problem not unique to the United States: in the United Kingdom, the Royal Academy of Engineering reports that the Brits will have to graduate 100,000 STEM majors every year until 2020 just to meet demand. According to the report, Germany has a shortage of 210,000 workers in the mathematics, computer science, natural science and technology disciplines.
And yet there are more and more experts who claim that this obsession with STEM education is dangerous: a broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are languages, literature and philosophy.
Nowhere did I see this more clearly than in article I read recently: 3 Ways to Develop Killer Apps, something that is essential these days, considering that mobile accounts for 65 percent of a person’s time online and that 85 percent of that time is spent in apps, not in a browser. To do that, Inc’s article suggested that your app:
- inspire a habit
- forge an emotional connection
- build relationships
Interesting, uh? None of those are directly related to a STEM education. On the contrary, they are related to more creative disciplines, such as design, marketing and social networking.
This doesn’t in any way detract from the need for training in technology, but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out -yet.