We have to agree with Alfie Kohn—again. In today’s Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet,” Kohn comments on education’s current obsession (witness its prominence in Obama’s proposed education budget) with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education:
“Thought experiment: Try to imagine this, or any other, president giving a speech that calls for a major new commitment to the teaching of literature, backed by generous funding (even during a period of draconian budget cuts). …
With that bit of sarcasm, he discusses why STEM subjects attract so much more money and attention than the other subjects. Society—read public officials and corporate executives—values STEM more than the other subjects, says Kohn, for reasons ranging from our obsession with the hard objectivity of numbers, with economic competition, with money.
And he says, “The real question we should be asking when we hear yet another speech arguing, explicitly or implicitly, for the unique importance of STEM disciplines is What does this say about the speakers—or our society’s—beliefs about the point of education itself?”
He quotes Berkeley linguist Robin Lakoff “who called on us to recognize education’s ‘less practical (but equally vital) functions.’ … [E]ducation is invaluable not only in its ability to help people and societies get ahead, but equally in helping them develop the perspectives that make them fully human.’”
Well, when you put it that way … .