Tag Archives: History education

STEM and History

In an excellent post, my friend Mark observes:

Aggravating matters, even if a prospective teacher did major in history in college, fewer of their professors were full-time history instructors than ever before, meaning that even the quality of the small minority of teachers who are history majors is going into decline! NCLB scorns history as a subject, so school districts across the nation will continue to starve it. Poorer districts will fire all the social studies teachers in coming years and parcel out the history sections to unwilling English teachers in order to save the jobs that will preserve reading scores (assuming those are making AYP in the first place).

Mark is right.

As someone who loves history, this is very sad.

As someone who is concerned with having a competitive educational system, this is fine.

Economic growth does not come from knowledge of history. If it did, Britain’s liberal arts and history-based curriculum would have allowed it to maintain hegemony in Europe through the 19th and 20th century. Insteda, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the “STEM” of economic success.

george_washington_mount_rushmore

History is a sentiment. Engineering is a reality.

George Bush did America a great favor by creating No Child Left Behind, and scorning history in favor of classes that are the root of STEM. However, like all great moves the consequences of No Child Left Behind are largely invisible to the public.

If America does not wish to become a second-rate power, America must avoid the path of Britain and take up the road of Germany. America must continue to prioritize fields of knowledge that are practical, and recognize that the rest are an enjoyable possibility for those looking for leisure.

Mark concludes the part I excerpted by writing:

After that, the science teachers will start to get the axe.

Ultimately, science can be taught in an intensive, adolescent setting if reading skills exist. Humans are natural learners, but not natural readers. It is more important to teach children how to read and comprehend information than to teach them the sort of vague facts that comprise a school science curriculum. Indeed, it is more important to learn to read than to know the “scientific method,” because the scientific method is itself idealized and not particularly useful to know until one is mid-to-late career.

American schools would be well-served by ceasing to teach history entirely, putting up some photos of Washington and Lincoln and the wall, and using tha hour a day to focus on mathematics and statistics. Indeed, No Child Left Behind implicitly encourages this. Only the backward-looking state standards boards, and the sentiments of our people, keep us from doing this.