“[Innovation] is constrained by the amount of properly trained talent …[and] it is constrained by this talent’s willingness to take the entrepreneurial risks critical to commercializing innovation.” So begins the 2013 Washington Post opinion piece of Ed Conard, former American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar in economics.
He opines that the world doesn’t need more humanities majors, we need more specially trained workers to fill the positions in the booming tech industry. The humanities don’t matter in economic competition, says the economist. But how accurate is he?
Higher education today is designed to be more holistic and well-rounded; this is implemented through the general education requirements every student loves to hate. Why? These courses directly challenge what we personally hold to be important.
Inside Higher Education states that general education is a problem of pedagogy rather than content, this means that the problems don’t lie in what is covered but rather how they are covered. The philosophy gen ed is not taught in a way that offers an obvious benefit to the STEM student.
The big question here is why should education be well-rounded? Why should chemists be forced to learn art history and sociology, and why should anthropology majors learn about matrices?
The world takes all kinds of people to operate. In order to be successful and effective in our chosen careers, we need to know more about each other to get along and respect each other enough in the workplace for innovation to actually happen. We learn and are inspired best when we are most challenged. We are forced to exercise portions of our brains and minds we aren’t used to. If we use all of our minds, parts wouldn’t atrophy, and we could make greater connections between ideas and find lasting solutions to real pressing problems.
There is a reason there are so few people of color in such professional fields as medicine and engineering, and it has nothing to do with lack of mental acuity in those areas. It is a matter of comfort and culture, in white-dominated fields, where it is disillusioning for a person of color to be surrounded day in and day out by microagressions and other perceived slights. We don’t really know how to communicate our discomfort to our peers in a way that doesn’t make them defensive and call us “reverse racists.”
First, reverse racism doesn’t exist. People of color assuming there is a race-based component to all interaction with the majority does not negatively affect white people and their ability to accomplish anything. Second, race colors everything whether we see it or even choose to acknowledge it. It is and always will be a factor. Why? Epistemology, one of those “useless” terms pushed on the masses in philosophy, refers to the ways we conceptualize knowledge; it is the origins of our internal biases and it is where racism, and all the other -isms for that matter, is reproduced one generation after another.
This is another reason why people of color generally dislike going to see a doctor; it is a sector that constantly fails minorities, not because it is still overtly and intentionally racist, but because all of the tools are not there in order for it to feel accessible. The medical curriculum and much of the literature is geared toward white bodies. To this day, there continues to be this myth that because of all the pain and trauma black persons in this country have been forced to endure, we are somehow less inclined to pain.
Scientists need anthropology and sociology courses built into their curriculum, courses designed especially for them to use every day. It’s a very simple fix that could very easily prevent what happened to this writer's grandmother and countless other people.