Math And Science Can't Take Priority Over History And CivicsRoundup
tags: historians, history profession in crisis, teaching historys
Natalie Wexler is the author of "The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System—and How to Fix It," forthcoming from Avery in August 2019. She is also the co-author, with Judith C. Hochman, of "The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades" (Jossey-Bass, 2017). Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.
Everyone seems to agree we need to focus more on STEM education: science, technology, engineering, and math. But in our rush to prioritize those subjects, we’re overlooking others that are even more important.
In a rare show of unanimity, both the Obama and Trump administrations have championed a focus on STEM subjects. The Obama administration called for initiatives like raising over $1 billion in private investment and training 100,000 new math and science teachers by 2021. The Trump administration recently released a report outlining its “five-year vision” on boosting STEM education. There’s even a push to expand STEM to preschool.
One reason for this enthusiasm is the perception that employers can’t find enough qualified individuals to fill STEM positions—and that the number of such positions is expected to grow rapidly. But the real picture is complicated, not least by the fact that the definition of a STEM job is murky. There’s a shortage of qualified applicants in certain STEM areas but a surplus in others. And some projections suggest that overall STEM job growth will slow.
But even if the number of STEM jobs zooms, the majority of Americans will continue to labor in non-STEM occupations. Depending on the way the STEM workforce is defined, it constituted only between five and twenty percent of the American workforce in 2015. Employers are more likely to say they want workers with general analytical and problem-solving skills rather than specific STEM qualifications. They also value so-called “soft” skills like leadership and the ability to work as part of a team. Written and oral communication skills are also high on their list.
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