For the last few years, we’ve heard a great deal about STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – and the critical need to encourage kids in these disciplines. In fact, the National Science Foundation has shared daunting statistics speculating that 80 percent of all jobs created in the next ten years will require math and science skills.
And if that doesn’t impress upon us the importance of kids’ engagement in STEM, we can re-watch Math, Science and the Future of Our Nation – A Town Hall Meeting (2010) and the ominous picture it paints. As the narrator warns in the first 5 minutes, “For kids in middle school today, by the time they enter the job market, it will be nearly impossible to succeed without a good foundation in math and science.” Music majors everywhere, take notice.
I recently tweeted a link to an article that seemed to suggest encouraging kids to participate in these subjects might be like ladling cheese on top of broccoli – heavily engage kids in STEM subjects by packaging the classes with things they already enjoy. And while we know that model works – parents everywhere can testify to the power of cheese – we’re collectively missing the innovation boat.
Frightening the humanities out of us will not make us better engineers or mathematicians. Isolating STEM education from other subjects to build the best and brightest can never address the broad and deep knowledge needed for true innovation.
Creativity, artistic vision, divergent thinking or the ability to communicate our ideas will always continue to play a powerful role in the innovation process. Educating for a particular skill set may only create a commodity and not encourage the broader design thinking that drives innovation. Yes, I said design thinking. Empathy, creativity and rationality, as Ms. Norvaisas would say, all sitting side-by-side.
Innovation isn’t taught through individual subjects, no matter how valuable STEM subjects may be. True innovation may best be accomplished through an holistic approach that embraces a broad range of subjects, including the humanities, as equal partners in the innovation process.