Musings on the value of STEM courses

Author: Willard Pack
Published: August 26, 2014

As the Department Chairs have considered the changes to General Education within our institution, we’ve had some wonderful discussions about which courses we want to include within the General Education Core and which don’t really belong.  The Idaho State Board of Education has put together lists of objectives that we want general education core classes to meet.  Our Academic Affairs Gen Ed Core team has put together some objectives that we want students at CWI to meet while completing their general education.  All Gen Ed Core classes at College of Western Idaho (CWI) must meet those objectives to a sufficient degree to be included in the Core.

Lately, we’ve wondered if there are some ideals or perspectives that we feel ought to be included in general education at CWI that aren’t already there.  The discussion surrounding that issue has made me think a little about the value of STEM courses. 

It has been suggested that all generally educated students be globally aware.  That makes complete sense to me.  While I enjoy watching YouTube clips from Jay Leno’s Jaywalking series, it is also a little sad to see the lack of understanding of our citizens.  I want educated people voting for my next President!

During the discussion of the importance of having globally aware graduates, it was suggested that our Humanities and Social Science courses teach quite a range of global perspectives.  It is quite possible that those courses satisfy the need to have globally aware graduates.

How do STEM courses fit into the idea of global awareness?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how global STEM classes are!  Mathematics is absolutely global!  There are few things as universal as math, except the sciences.  Science courses teach truths that are universal.  When you drop a ball in China, it falls just like it would if you were in Argentina.  Adding bleach to ammonia is not a very good idea regardless of which house you’re trying to clean.  What could be more global than a geology course that teaches about how our globe was made and how it has changed over the years into the form we see today?  Environmental Science teaches us how the world acts and reacts and some of the ways we might be affecting it or it is affecting us.  We learn the effects that various weather patterns have on different parts of the world and why the cultures in the various areas respond or live as they do because of those patterns.

So, while we may be discussing the arts, humanities, and social sciences the most during our discussions of a global perspective, we must not forget how universal STEM courses are and just how much they bring to the table.  There is power in math and science that transcends the ideas in the arts and culture.  If you’ll recall from your studies, it was often changes in our physical or biological world that caused changes to the arts, not the other way around.

Stay Up To Date

Learn about news and events by subscribing to CWI’s eNewsletter.

View Newsletter Archive