Despite spending a career in technical fields and being an engineer at heart, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the arts and humanities. Love of jazz and rock music, cinema, philosophy, and literature have been constants through my life. Life without them would’ve trudged on, but it would’ve certainly been less enjoyable.
Notwithstanding my fondness, the arts have not returned the favor. In fact, an academic vanguard of the humanities today wages a hot war against science and technical fields. The war is fought across multiple fronts, from the ideological to the financial.
The stakes in this war are high for our society and nation. As rivals, including China, continue to bolster and promote STEM prowess, the U.S. consciously dilutes its STEM competency in the name of equity. If allowed to continue and left unchecked, the undermining of science and technology education will have dire consequences.
STEM to STEAM, How One Letter Makes a Big Difference
A recent trend in education is degrading the quality of crucial technical fields society relies on. That trend has been the viral transformation of STEM education into STEAM education. One little letter can make an enormous difference in a bad way.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Society ceases to function without technology and technically competent professionals. In contrast, the humanities, represented by the “A” (for arts) in STEAM, are a want not a need. Although the humanities have a proud legacy, the country can’t run on them.
The methodical dumbing down of STEM in academia is led by the arts and administrator bureaucrats who see an opportunity to avoid necessary reform and freeload off the demand and need for critical STEM fields. Instead of rightsizing programs, staffing, and facilities for the arts and humanities to reflect the market realities of 2021, academia instead has chosen to subsidize these areas under auspices of the need to make technical programs more “well-rounded.” You see it across every level of the education journey: kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, and graduate school.
Yet STEM drives both quality of life and the competitiveness of nations. And STEM is constantly evolving at dizzying rates; every hour and dollar we can invest in these fields is necessary just to keep pace with progress.
Conversely, the more “A” we inject into STEM, the less time and attention is paid to the technical fundamentals. The STEM gap between the United States and other nations is closing in large part because we consciously water down STEM content across technical fields.
Academia Manufactures a Humanities Crisis
The humanities concluded long ago that the best way to secure more resources is to attack and drain resources from STEM. To do so, the arts needed a pretense for confrontation with STEM. Thus, everywhere you turn in academia, you hear about the “humanities crisis.” But many of us outside academia have little understanding of what humanities professors teach or what that crisis is.
Humanities are no longer traditional English literature, art, or philosophy as we might remember fondly. Today, they are quite different. What was once four years of immersion into the classics is now four years of surgical, ideological programming of students. Humanities curricula across the higher education system have been dramatically revamped by a cadre of students and faculty thought police to reflect identity politics and victimhood ideologies. Shockingly, students today can obtain an English degree from Yale without ever having to study Shakespeare.
The manufactured humanities crisis is used to invade and conquer the social sciences, such as economics or sociology. The social sciences play a pivotal role in undermining STEM curricula and disciplines. The days when the social sciences sat between a quantitative/qualitative spectrum bookended by STEM on one side and the humanities on the other side are long gone. Elements incubated in the humanities have consumed the social sciences and now wage war on STEM disciplines.
Advocates for the humanities define this manufactured crisis differently, but they agree on one thing: more. As in the critical need for more funding for humanities faculty, more tenured humanities professors, more buildings dedicated to the humanities, more humanities classes, more humanities degrees, and more resources to end the humanities crisis.
All of this “more” must come at the expense of something else since most students only need and can afford so many credits, campuses have only so much space for more buildings, and college budgets have theoretical limits. Addressing the so-called critical crisis in the humanities would have to come at the expense of STEM programs and budgets, as well as continue to drive college tuition to even more unconscionable levels. Exactly the opposite of what the economy and society are demanding.
You see the manufactured humanities crisis diluting STEM everywhere these days. Increasingly, humanities departments dictate how STEM programs instruct, train, and operate. Consider the following examples (unfortunately, there are many more to choose from):
- Stanford is the gold standard of STEM education. Yet the president of Stanford is obsessing over whether Stanford is too focused on the engineering and technology fields and is not spending enough time and money on the humanities. Much of the recent Stanford campus spending has been on new art museums, theaters, and humanities degrees.
- Sustainability has become the ultimate liberal art and a weapon of choice for those looking to dilute STEM influence. When Yale rolled out its Sustainability Strategic Plan, its president told students to “fake it till you make it” to present an image and mirage of sustainability behaviors. The Yale president publicly encouraged students to pretend their way through sustainability theater. Yale is run for the benefit of the liberal arts and to the detriment of STEM.
- The University of California–Berkeley, engages its non-STEM doctorate students and faculty to re-design the undergraduate general chemistry course to, “dismantle racialized, gendered, and classed hierarchies of competence in chemistry.” That’s code for less chemistry fundamentals and more rhetoric in Chem 101.
- Carnegie Mellon University is marketing engineering programs by bragging that you don’t need to take too much math, computer, science, and engineering classes to obtain the degree. Administrators tout dual degree and minor degree programs for engineers where the second, minor degree is in the humanities. That allows a student to graduate as an engineer with less than half of his coursework in science, engineering, or math.
- Cornell boasts over 700 courses deemed to be sustainability-focused or sustainability related. The Big Red of the Ivy League asserts that over 25% of their faculty engages in some form of sustainability research. The sustainability academic complex means less traditional STEM curricula, fewer and lower-quality STEM faculty, diluted quality of graduates in STEM disciplines, and older STEM facilities.
- Botany is no longer about crop science or cell biology. Evergreen State College in Washington state offers a course titled “Botany: Plants and People,” where students learn about how they can enjoy more socially just and sustainable relations with plants.
- A Smith College mathematics professor developed the course “Inequalities: Numbers and Justice,” which aims to show how mathematics and statistics are used to promote racial capitalism, climate change, and a portfolio of other evils.
- Medical schools are not immune to STEM dilution. The American College of Physicians (ACP) advocates on a range on non-medical topics, including gun control and climate change. The ACP lobbies medical schools to incorporate these non-medical topics and positions into the curricula. With only so many hours of instruction, simple math dictates more ideology in the curricula results in less scientific instruction.
What’s Ultimately at Stake
The most obvious forms of damage being done via the dilution of STEM are a less prepared workforce and a weaker nation competing across an unforgiving geopolitical map. But there is another insidious factor at work when eroding, weakening, and supplanting STEM.
Throughout history, the scientific community has been the most consistent, steadfast bulwark to protect against and resist tyranny, especially tyranny of thought. The more closed-minded academia becomes, the more ideologically rigid the campus culture becomes, the less tolerant students and faculty are of free thought, and the less likely leaders in STEM fields will speak up and rebut unenlightened oppression.
What better way for those wishing to eradicate the greatest threat to suppression of free thinking than to hinder STEM? Instead of science checking politics, politics checks science.
It is time for STEM to stand up and defend itself.