Liberal Arts and Stem

Technology

When I attended the University of Minnesota, I was enrolled in the Institute for Technology.  –That’s right, I attended MIT!–  The rest of the students, for the most part, were enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts or CLA.

It was high fun to openly mock our more leisurely peers often referring to them, in the most derogatory tone possible, as “CLA’ers.”  There was never any doubt, inside the Institute or out, that the rigorous courses were contained within that technology track.

It would seem that the same holds true – more or less – here in North Carolina.  I’m hanging out on the UNC campus while my daughter dances in the Raleigh Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” -she’s a Gingerbread-  and I’m reading the campus newspaper when I came across this:

Senior Lauren Schmidt originally entered college with the intention of becoming a pharmacist or physician assistant. Those plans changed after her experience in Chemistry 101 during her first semester at UNC.

“I spent hours working on Mastering Chemistry,” she said. “I’m not good at chemistry, and I’m OK with admitting that.”

Schmidt decided to drop the class after the first exam, and even though she completed Biology 101 the following semester, she started looking for a different major.

And Schmidt is not alone. Jennifer Krumper, a lecturer in the chemistry department, said a number of other aspiring pre-health students switch majors because of the difficulty in introductory science courses such as Biology 101, Chemistry 101 and Chemistry 102.

“Many students who are interested in science and have the abilities end up not majoring in science because they have a discouraging experience after their first year,” she said.

A somewhat sad, but not surprising commentary on the state of US education.  It would seem that kids are getting the message that the “goto” careers are within STEM fields, but that our kids either aren’t prepared or are simply too lazy.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that about half of the students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields leave their majors before they complete a bachelor’s degree.

Of the students who left these programs, about half switched to a non-STEM major, while the other half left school altogether.

Sad, really.  Especially as our economy is continually transitioning to a more and more technological one.

Certainly would be interesting to study the effects of this phenomenon as it pertains to income inequality.

2 responses to “Liberal Arts and Stem

  1. At Stanford the dichotomy was between “techie” and “fuzzie”. I was actually both. I majored in electrical engineering to justify the cost of my Stanford education, and in history because I enjoyed it. But if you wanted to maximize your income, you majored in Economics and you were born wealthy (as I’ve been seeing in recent years, the later is far more important than the former).

    • At Stanford the dichotomy was between “techie” and “fuzzie”. I was actually both. I majored in electrical engineering to justify the cost of my Stanford education, and in history because I enjoyed it.

      I started Mechanical Engineering but later switched to Math. Minor in Philosophy because I thought I needed too balance the technical with the … “fuzzie”.

      (as I’ve been seeing in recent years, the later is far more important than the former).

      It certainly helps to be born rich if you want to maximize the income, yes. However, it doesn’t need to be the case in order to make a lot of money.

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