For several years now, there’s been a steady drumbeat of reports and studies about the need to expand and improve science, technology, engineering and math education — commonly referred to by its acronym, STEM.
But some educators are worried that in the rush to educate everyone in the STEM fields, the liberal arts are getting left behind.
Last year, leaders from 40 public and private four-year and two-year colleges and other organizations in Washington got together to discuss the importance of the liberal arts. They formed the Washington Consortium for the Liberal Arts, and as one of their first projects, established several scholarships for students who can put the importance of the liberal arts into words.
“A solid grounding in liberal arts is a foundation for career success, whether in science, business, technology or other areas,” Michael Zimmerman, vice-president for academic affairs at The Evergreen State College, said in a statement. “It’s also essential to a strong democracy.”
Three scholarships are being offered this year to high-school seniors. First prize pays $3,000, second prize pays $2,000 and third prize pays $1,000; the money must be used at one of the consortium schools, which include all the four-year public colleges and universities in Washington and many of the private universities and colleges. Participants are asked to discuss the relationship between the liberal arts and democratic principles, in no more than 500 words. For more information or to apply, go here. The deadline is Jan. 31.
Last year’s winner, Rebecca Korf of Whitworth College, described how her liberal arts education helped her do a better job while working one summer at Olympic National Park. She discovered that graduate students working in the park didn’t have the communications skills needed to translate their work to a non-scientific audience, yet the park rangers didn’t have the specialized knowledge needed to communicate the science effectively, either. “As a science major I had taken enough courses to understand the science, but in additional my general education classes had given me the communication skills to explain these concepts to a general audience,” she wrote.
“…Our economy and society asks for citizens with varied and dynamic abilities,” Korf wrote. “Moreover, we need to have the ability to think well in whatever we choose as the focus of our education.”