Are schools becoming too obsessed with sci-tech?

Jul 20, 2012

Many of the efforts to improve schools in Washington are focusing on science and technology, and some leading educators are concerned that’s coming at the expense of a well-rounded education. They’re forming a group to advocate for liberal arts learning.

Evergreen State College provost Michael Zimmerman wants to make clear that he has no problem with resources going toward science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

“I’m a scientist by training. My Ph.D. is in biology. I spend a good portion of my time promoting science literacy,” Zimmerman said.

But he worries that a heavy emphasis on STEM by policy-makers and funders – who often come from industry – is sapping resources from other disciplines.

“We need well rounded people And when we focus just on the technical needs of certain businesses, or the current job opportunities as opposed to job opportunities that we don’t even foresee, I think we’re making a mistake,” he said.

He convened a summit at Evergreen Thursday, attended, he says, by representatives of nearly every institution of higher learning in the state. They’re creating a new organization to promote the value of a broad, liberal arts education.

It comes just a week after more than a hundred organizations, from Boeing to the University of Washington to the teachers union, announced a united effort to push for more STEM education in Washington. Advocates say Washington schools don’t come close to pumping out students with the science and tech skills that area businesses need.