by Carol Bettencourt, History Unboxed Marketing Manager

There is a lot of talk these days about the value of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – in education. Proponents of a STEM-based education argue that:

>       To remain competitive, countries must educate their next generation of innovators, engineers and scientists.

>       Job prospects and income tend to be higher for those with STEM-based degrees.

>       STEM skills are essential to solving lots of the world’s problems, such as environmental changes and an expanding population.

All of these things are true, but where does that leave subjects like history? Is the study of the past soon to be relegated to the past?

The answer is an emphatic “NO!”

Of course, STEM subjects are critical, but it really should not be an either/or question. Studying history and understanding the past is critical to understanding the future, and even to understanding the value of STEM in the future.

As I write this blog post, I notice that on this day in history, September 28, 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory. This eventually lead to the isolation of the mold’s active ingredient in the 1940s by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, leading to the development of the now widely-used drug, penicillin.  So is this information something to be passed along in a science class or a history class?

Clearly, it is both.

Without an understanding of the history of disease and its devastating effects on entire populations, would scientists be as inspired to pursue cures and remedies? Without understanding the historical context of scientific theories and past research, would today’s STEM experts be as ably equipped? And, without a general understanding of science and technology, would those in non-STEM professions be fully equipped to be informed voters and responsible citizens?

In short, the choice isn’t which “type” of education, STEM or otherwise, is best. The question is, do we want to raise our children to be well-rounded adults, not only capable of performing a job, but fully prepared to think, reason and ensure that the world remains a good place.

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.”

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

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