Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Legislature should invest in the future workforce
STEM is not enough
President Richard Cummins of Columbia Basin College inadvertently made it clear that an education focused solely on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is insufficient — and that adding Medicine isn’t the answer [“Invest in state’s future workforce,” Opinion, Jan. 15]. Without liberal arts, and in this case particularly English (and perhaps history), we aren’t educating, but merely training; training techs who cannot communicate.
His very first sentence states that “Detroit lost its command of the auto industry a century ago.” I hope that isn’t what he meant to say; that would put the loss in the year 1913 — five years after the introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T.
Could he perhaps have meant “Detroit lost its command of the auto industry in the last quarter of the 20th century?” And if so, wouldn’t he have done better to communicate that clearly?
The STEM (and better, STEMM) models appear important to our economic future, but without the ability to communicate their knowledge, most graduates will have to remain in entry-level jobs. Without communication skills in both English and foreign languages, history, and cross-cultural knowledge, our ability to lead in the world will be lost.
STEM and/or STEMM are important, certainly. However, just as we didn’t abandon the humanities following the “Sputnik Crisis” of 1957 — the 1958 National Defense Education Act funded both increased studies in mathematics and sciences and created the first federal student-loan program, providing for liberal-arts students as well. We can’t abandon them now.
To succeed in future hard economic times, we need an educated populace — men and women who are not merely trained in technology, but who are educated in all aspects of what is necessary for our success as a nation and a people.
--The Rev. Francis C. Zanger, Seattle