“Writing is healing. Writing is art. Writing is learning.”
July 30, 2015 9:42 AM   Subscribe

The Role of Writers in a STEM Obsessed Society
“As writers, it’s easy to think of how we matter to literature classrooms, but what the appointment of writers-in-residence in hospitals, history classrooms, foreign language learning spaces, and cooking schools reminds us is that we are relevant wherever there is humanity—which is to say, wherever humans are with their stories. Writing is healing. Writing is art. Writing is learning. As such, writing across the disciplines matters. Many models of artist residencies depend upon the retreat model, wherein the artist sequesters herself away with a small community of other artists. While these models have value, especially when considering how solitude relates to the creative process, it’s heartening to me to see more models catch on that value the place of the writer in society, rather than hidden away from it.”
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a good writer on a specialist subject can do is share knowledge and passion--important when the topic is complex. Everyone benefits when "black boxes" are pried open so that we can have a peek inside.
posted by maxwelton at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Knowledge is important. But knowledge is only truly valuable if you can communicate that knowledge effectively to others.

Anyone who's ever proofread an engineer's term paper knows that there will always be a role out there for writers, just to bridge the gap between what a technical person knows and the non-techie who wants to use what techies produce.
posted by delfin at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Anyone who's ever proofread an engineer's term paper knows that there will always be a role out there for writers, just to bridge the gap between what a technical person knows and the non-techie who wants to use what techies produce.

But it goes deeper than that. Writing is how that knowledge gets built up and stored. Take any complex topic (magnetism, relativity, DNA): the way that humans understand how they work is intertwined with layers of abstraction and symbolism that we've developed through writing about them. I worry that the focus on standardized test scores keeps kids from developing those skills.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


STEM helps us to protect our civilization. Art and the humanities make it worth protecting.
posted by anifinder at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


The recent appointment of Dr. Suzanne Koven to the first-ever writer-in-residence program at Massachusetts General Hospital has me asking: is the U.S. as a nation starting to re-value creativity after years of putting math and science first?

Oo! Oo! Oo! Begging the question! The real kind!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:10 AM on July 30, 2015 [25 favorites]


And the answer to the question is "yes, we put math and science first, and we don't seem to care about anything else."
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's extremely depressing to me that 60 years after CP Snow, this is still framed as a conflict between the sciences and the humanities.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


[I]s the U.S. as a nation starting to re-value creativity after years of putting math and science first?

I has some interest in this, but I stopped reading after this frankly idiotic sentence. If you think math and science don't require creativity, I can't take you seriously.
posted by tecg at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's extremely depressing to me that 60 years after CP Snow, this is still framed as a conflict between the sciences and the humanities.

Unfortunately, that's the mindset of the people who hold the pursestrings...the politicians. Arts and humanities are easy targets for the penny-pinchers, tax-cutters and budget hawks. Arts and humanities have always been easy targets for those who look down on touchy-feely education. STEM easily equates to "job training" in the eyes of politicians, and that's something they can crow about during election time. Arts and humanities, though? They're all future baristas and dog walkers.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:22 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


'Stopped Reader After X' is on the metafilter bingo card.
posted by srboisvert at 10:23 AM on July 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yes – anyone who laments the conflict between so-called "STEM" and the so-called "humanities" should take note that this conflict will go on until we stop cutting so-called "humanities" budgets and giving all of our money to so-called "STEM" departments.

"STEM" and "writers" are empty categories. The first is a messy agglomeration of four unrelated fields which we mash together with no justification, as if we were to say "BIRD" when we mean "bioethics, industrial design, research, and dulcimer playing." The second is utterly and completely vague; the linked article ties it with "creativity," but that seems fairly vague to me. What do writers write? Doesn't this matter? Generally when people say "writers" they mean a specific kind of writer, but they don't say so.

All this is really an excuse to say what I always say in situations like this, although it bears repeating: most of our pedagogical mistakes these days are category errors, and rather dire ones. STEM is not a thing. It is not a justified program of study, nor is it a reasonable or rational emphasis to place on education.

We should be talking about Liberal Arts. Music – listerature, poetry, "writing," etc – is a Liberal Art. Geometry and astronomy – science, mathematics, biology, etc – are Liberal Arts. These are all things that a human being should study. They are Liberal Arts precisely because they liberate the student from the prejudices and misconceptions of her or his own time, and liberate the mind to consider new worlds and new possibilities. It is utterly impossible to be truly liberated by science alone. It is utterly impossible to be truly liberated by poetry alone. All of these things must coexist and coincide. They are all Liberal Arts.

Until we return to an emphasis on Liberal Arts, as Liberal Arts, there will be no resolution of these things.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2015 [32 favorites]


At the moment I "write for a living." It ain't easy, but I'm not complaining about so-called "STEM bias." Anyone who has ever struggled to feed a family as a "writer" can tell you the challenge with writing is that there is virtually no barrier to entry.

On top of that, a lot of writers are content to write for free (as I am doing now; until very recently MetaFilter's business model was based on free, user-generated content).

With STEM disciplines, there is often a massive barrier to entry. Not everyone can complete an engineering undergraduate degree, and very few technnicians work for free.

That's not entirely true. A relative of mine got a PhD in genetics and then discovered that outside of, say the Montreal region in Canada, or Boston there are very few places in the world where she could find a job that paid her more than $36,000 a year. So she moved to one of those places.

When I got my creative writing (now thankfully called a "professional writing") degree twenty years ago, the professors were all successful novelists, playwrights and even poets. Yet they all had to rely on tenured, well-paying teaching positions at the university to keep the lights on.

But still they wrote. They were probably compelled to do so - and they would probably chastise me for commenting for free on MetaFilter, as the number-one rule we learned as writers was to be entrepreneurial.

Being entrepreneurial as a writer does not mean doing hack work, but means to focus one's efforts, understand how to tell your story, whatever it might be, in a way that engages your reader and to be opportunistic.

I don't think all would-be writers are entrepreneurial in this way. However, most STEM graduates (save for the poor research scientists like my relative) are indeed entrepreneurial.

You can't be passive if you want to get read.
posted by Nevin at 10:31 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Forbes article on Why STEM should be STEAM.
posted by emjaybee at 10:31 AM on July 30, 2015


If you think math and science don't require creativity, I can't take you seriously.

In a lot of cases people don't do math or science outside of high school, and my experience with math and science in high school involved a lot of rote learning and very little creativity. I'm sure as you say there is plenty of room for creativity--I doubt you'd have any sort of breakthroughs in science or math without someone looking at things in unique and creative ways--but I and many others would not have experienced it. I think it's not an unreasonable conclusion for a lot of people even if it's wrong, and not taking someone seriously for it seems a bit harsh.
posted by Hoopo at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]



Of the 1,791,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2011–12, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (367,000), social sciences and history (179,000), health professions and related programs (163,000), psychology (109,000), and education (106,000). At the master’s degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (192,000) and education (178,000). At the doctor’s degree level, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of health professions and related programs (62,100), legal professions and studies (46,800), education (10,000), engineering (8,700), biological and biomedical sciences (7,900), psychology (5,900), and physical sciences and science technologies (5,400).
U.S.

from Department of Education
Institute of Education Sciences
National Center for Education Statistics

the elephant in this room is Business, not STEM
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2015 [28 favorites]


I think it's not an unreasonable conclusion for a lot of people even if it's wrong, and not taking someone seriously for it seems a bit harsh.

Maybe, but it does indicate very strongly someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, or who at the very least doesn't understand half of something that they're trying to make a point about.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


What is "creativity" anyway? Making a sandwich requires creativity. Lying in bed requires creativity, at least when it comes to choosing a position. The elevation of creativity to an essential goal of a human life in the modern world always strikes me as very little more than a platitude. (And it's probably worth saying: boiling writing down to simple "creativity" seems like a mistake to me.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2015


STEM is not a thing. It is not a justified program of study, nor is it a reasonable or rational emphasis to place on education.

I don't know about this. The stuff that gets grouped into STEM really does have a lot of overlap, and there's a basic set of skills you need to pursue any of the disciplines that get grouped as STEM -- advanced math, a general numeracy, some facility with computers, drawing conclusions from data. Tons of people get a STEM degree and don't work in that field, but the skills serve them well in whatever they do.

Really most of the STEM disciplines are just an opportunity to practice these skills, which are not mechanical and take judgment and creativity. In the same way that a humanities degree provides opportunities to practice prose rhetoric, scholarship, critical thinking, and logical argumentation, even if someone doesn't actually want to become a scholar of early Vedic religions or whatever.

I think it really is the case that the STEM skills are both really useful and relatively rare. In part this is because our baseline expectation for the numeracy of a non-specialist is pathetically low. For example, we expect an educated adult to be able to follow a historical argument even if they couldn't make it themselves, but it's completely acceptable if they can't engage at all with the technical aspects of a scientific argument.

I agree that the solution is not more specialization, it's just making it clear that basic STEM skills are also part of a complete education. If these skills become liberal arts then there's not much argument that studying the liberal arts leaves someone missing important knowledge -- and more importantly, there's an argument that ignoring the humanities completely does result in a deficient education.

The real reason for humanities budget cuts is to take money away from leftist professors, though.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:45 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


We had another post on the blue about STEM wherein many people pointed out that our society is not STEM obsessed.

If we were, we wouldn't have laughably low levels of science and statistics literacy. Remember all those dihydrogen monoxide "scares"?

We also wouldn't have newscasters frequently displaying a sad lack of understanding of high school level biology. People seem also to have forgotten a lot of the chemistry they theoretically learned in school, and geology and environmental science barely get a mention. Quick, ask a random person what a 100-year flood is. We're talking about a country where we have to go back and make new vaccination laws because measles outbreaks are a problem again.

Tech may be big these days, but most of the public discourse about many of these things reveals us to be anything but STEM-obsessed. We're obsessed with money, which is why there are a lot of articles about technology and the like, and we're pushing STEM on people, but we as a society are not exactly embracing STEM. Though the business community is quite happy to tell you that we don't have enough people studying STEM, which is quite far from the truth.

Maybe the numbers of people studying the arts are down. It's not easy to make a living off the arts these days, because we're no longer at the point where getting a job was as easy as getting a college degree.

On Preview, OHenryPacey backs this up with some hard numbers.
posted by Strudel at 10:45 AM on July 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


I got the distinct impression growing up that facts were useless without the framework they existed in, but probably somewhere around 80% of the information that I ever got tested on was facts divorced from their context.

I think we've marginalized writing/reading/data communication in ways that aren't even immediately apparent. We think "Columbus first set out in 1492." is a meaningful sentence. Really though it's just name and date soup--the real concepts at hand are why an Italian was sailing for Spain, why the sailing was important, why we have fixated on that figure and date rather than his oceanfaring forebears, why exploration was limited to boats at the time and what the challenges were for the sailors, why there were ultimately 4 voyages, and so on.

But because names and dates are discrete, hard facts that are "easily digestible" (though I would contest that), and can exist independent of a complex narrative, they are considered meaningful. The further effect of this--where we can't truly appreciate the context of someone who is not familiar with a subject we are chronically proficient in--leaves us with teachers (to be clear, I am speaking in the abstract, not to today's teachers specifically) who are poorly equipped to relate to the students. The unhelpful nature of name and date soup isn't as glaring when the teacher can't even properly imagine the lack of information a novice has.

So what we are left with--absent both fantastically good writers who can concisely throw down meaningful introductions to material, and students who have been engaged to write and communicate meaningfully themselves--is lots of testable "facts" that at best are absent meaning and at worst misinterpreted as their own bizarro narrative.

I think that to pass meaningful information from one person to another, you do need to create it. And in that way, we are all disserved by a lack of emphasis on creativity, without which the higher-level concepts become fantastically more difficult to approach for the novice.
posted by Phyltre at 10:46 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


By the way: bonehead mentioned C P Snow above, probably referring to Snow's essay "The Two Cultures," in which he lamented that the literary establishment seemed to exclude scientists and mathematicians. It's an interesting essay; it's published here, although you'll have to scroll down a bit. Worth a read, though I don't necessarily agree with everything in it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on July 30, 2015


Koeselitz: Making a sandwich requires creativity.

The sandwich was invented by the Earl of Sandwich. (Which is almost as incredible a coincidence as Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig's disease.)

From Woody Allen's Getting Even.

"The sandwich," it read, "was invented by the Earl of Sandwich." Stunned by the news, I read it again and broke into an involuntary tremble. My mind whirled as it began to conjure with the immense dreams, the hopes and obstacles, that must have gone into the invention of the first sandwich. My eyes became moist as I looked out the window at the shimmering towers of the city, and I experienced a sense of eternity, marvelling at man's ineradicable place in the universe. Man the inventor! Da Vinci's notebooks loomed before me—brave blueprints for the highest aspirations of the human race. I thought of Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare. The First Folio. Newton. Handel's Messiah. Monet. Impressionism. Edison. Cubism. Stravinsky. E=mc2 . . .Holding firmly to a mental picture of the first sandwich lying encased at the British Museum, I spent the ensuing three months working up a brief biography of its great inventor, his nibs the Earl. Though my grasp of history is a bit shaky, and though my capacity for romanticizing easily dwarfs that of the average acidhead, I hope I have captured at least the essence of this unappreciated genius, and that these sparse notes will inspire a true historian to take it from here.

(the link includes the history and failings of the decades long struggle to invent the sandwich.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's also worth noting that Snow later published a book in 1963, The Two Cultures and a Second Look, in which he reversed some off the positions and ideas put forth in the original 1959 lectures, lamenting his original framing of the intellectual world as being divided into two dichotomous camps.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had not known that we were stem obsessed. I did know that recently, with the cost of college, and with scarcity of good paying jobs, we were told that STEM is the way to go. When I listen to cable pundits, read newspapers, listen to pundits, I seldom hear a tirade about STEM. But of course poor writing skills created a nice market for tech writers, and they have been around for years.

The need for good non-fiction writing is hardly new, and it will remain a need till our STEM people develop software that can do the job for their needs and thus eliminate tech writers, cutting them loose among the jobless, where they can craft Attention Must Be Paid articles demanding that they be taken into the economy.
posted by Postroad at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2015


Business majors want their kids to be business majors, but they want your kids to be STEM majors.

In the Great War of Humanities vs. STEM, it's important to remember who is really pulling the strings.
posted by Avenger at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think we value writing. There is more writing then ever. What we don't value is literature. We're more democratic. I don't see this as terribly bad.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:18 AM on July 30, 2015


Damn, when I see tons of people in my generation viciously mocking people for being English or history or arts majors ("have fun being my batista!") I could have swore there was a war going on.

The facts state that we don't have a STEM obsession, but in that case we have a vocal minority who think they're going to make $200k right out of graduation while they're still in their second year and haven't done any actual work.
posted by gucci mane at 11:21 AM on July 30, 2015


...viciously mocking people for being English or history or arts majors ("have fun being my batista!")...

That is really one hell of an insightful typo.
posted by griphus at 11:22 AM on July 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


There is a lot of writing in science. Some of it takes a great deal of skill (of which I would not count myself particularly blessed). A significant fraction of a scientist's time is spent developing a particular kind of writing, papers and grants. We live and die by our writing.

Beyond that, what Carl Sagan and Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson et al. did and do also takes enormous skill and creativity. But none of that is considered literary.
posted by bonehead at 11:23 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Unless I'm misinterpreting, Carl Sagan may not be the best example as he wrote a best-selling novel. Or he might be a particularly good example.
posted by griphus at 11:33 AM on July 30, 2015


In my experience, writing is treated as expendable. It's the first thing booted out the door when layoffs need to happen. It's not considered vital compared to say, "you might find a cure for cancer" or whatever. If writing was on the Maslow pyramid, it'd probably be considered level 4 or 5, one of those things that can be considered important only when someone's flush with cash and security. When I do searches for "writing" jobs, I'm amazed at what jobs are considered "writing." Did you know that a retail team lead needs writing skills?!

STEM helps us to protect our civilization. Art and the humanities make it worth protecting.

Yeah, that totally fits with my Maslow example. Science and math are considered far more urgent and always will be, so writing isn't going to get respect well....probably ever, would be my guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:35 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't quite formulate this into a more general idea yet, but: it seems to me as though there's some sort of systemic stress created by the fact that most of our intellectual activities (both STEM and humanities) were originally aristocratic pursuits, but in the 21st century everyone's literate and involved in them.
posted by XMLicious at 11:35 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Medicine is the bottom fat layer of the research spending pyramid, and always has been. Engineering is on the next thick slice. The rest of the bio, eco, geo and hard sciences are in the upper, fractional percentage tiers. Math seems to be funded about as well as the average medieval history department usually. When I went to school, at one of the largest, best funded universities in Canada, the math department had been in portables for years with no end in sight.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


When I do searches for "writing" jobs, I'm amazed at what jobs are considered "writing." Did you know that a retail team lead needs writing skills?!

I think that in those descriptions, "writing" really just means "the basic spelling, grammar, and etiquette necessary for any adult job." But that usage is emblematic of a bigger problem, in a work culture that doesn't really understand what actual writers can do for the organization.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2015


STEM helps us to protect our civilization. Art and the humanities make it worth protecting.
I call bullshit.

With the recent news about Victor Jara's murderers, I'm reminded that when dictators come to power, it seems to be mostly the writers, poets, journalists, playwrights, musicians, artists and philosophers who get tortured and disappeared, not the engineers and scientists (with the possible exception of doctors.) (I'd like to have some hard numbers on this...)

If that's so, what is it about artists that makes them dangerous to the regime? What is it about engineers that makes them useful?

The arts aren't window dressing and artists and thinkers aren't entertainment. They're the people who churn the soil of civilization. They keep it vital and healthy, they confront oppression and speak out for the oppressed. I think there's a reason that when we think about dissidents in Russia and China, we think of Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei. For my part, I don't think I've ever met an artist who would or could separate their work from politics, while most scientists and engineers pretend that their work is apolitical and amoral or, worse, that it transcends morality and politics.

In light of the above, it's seems to me that it's no accident that the powers that be are waging a (successful) marketing campaign against the arts.
posted by klanawa at 12:14 PM on July 30, 2015 [21 favorites]


Medicine is the bottom fat layer of the research spending pyramid, and always has been. Engineering is on the next thick slice. The rest of the bio, eco, geo and hard sciences are in the upper, fractional percentage tiers. Math seems to be funded about as well as the average medieval history department usually. When I went to school, at one of the largest, best funded universities in Canada, the math department had been in portables for years with no end in sight.

Even people who do medically-relevant biological research are getting squeezed these days, if it's basic research that's not directly applicable to big-budget diseases.
posted by atoxyl at 12:16 PM on July 30, 2015


After all the propaganda I got in engineering school about how critical coherent business and technical writing was...I now believe that pretty much nobody reads anything longer than a short-ish email.

Today's guidelines:
- No big words
- sentences go: subject, verb, object
- 3 bullets max per slide
- Voice track any subtleties/nuance

Any required 'Writing' is for post-hoc ass-covering. Put it on the share drive.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


anifinder: “STEM helps us to protect our civilization. Art and the humanities make it worth protecting.”

jenfullmoon: “Yeah, that totally fits with my Maslow example. Science and math are considered far more urgent and always will be, so writing isn't going to get respect well....probably ever, would be my guess.”

And absolutely wrongly so, as klanawa points out above.

Aside from a very few extreme instances, so-called "STEM" disciplines absolutely do not "protect our civilization." Nor should they. That is not their purpose. Yes, there have been a few medicines that have saved millions of lives; yes, there have been some agricultural processes that have done the same. But saving lives is not the same thing as protecting civilization; and even if it were, disease and famine are absolutely not the greatest threat to human life, particularly not in our time.

Meanwhile, so-called "STEM" disciplines have given us plenty of value-neutral things that have been used for terrible purposes. This was by design. The progenitor of modern experimental science, Sir Francis Bacon – he who urged us to "torture" nature to "get her to give up her secrets" – argued heartily that once absolutely powerful weapons were readily available, there would no longer be any war, because anyone and everyone would know that war would mean certain destruction. That was our project for centuries; we should be able to look back and decide whether it was a beneficent one.

Three quarters of a century ago, we faced down a profound existential threat to civilization. It wasn't disease, or famine, or any other curable or engineer-able threat; it was a human threat, the threat of actual human beings committing genocide. We were in many ways lucky that the side that happened to be right won out in the end. Just after that conflict, a lot of folks got in the habit of using the phrase "never again" to mean: we will remember what this conflict was about, so that we can avoid it next time; but over the years that watchword has lost its urgency as we've begun to feel as though Nazism was just a silly mistake that no reasonable or intelligent person could make.

We aren't facing the same kind of immediate, readily apparent existential threat now; so it's our privilege to believe that things like morality and justice and true human goodness are really just obvious to everyone with half a brain. (Although one might point out that that threat wasn't quite so readily apparent 75 years ago.) So, believing that moral goodness and the standards that define and uphold civilization and human society are really just basic stuff we don't need to worry about, we tend to turn to some knowledge we regard as much more precious and difficult to obtain: scientific knowledge. But I think our priorities are quite out of alignment with reality.

The point of all this is absolutely not that science is unnecessary, or that medicine or engineering are fruitless. All of the Liberal Arts, including these, are essential because they liberate the human soul; these in particular have many benefits, one of which is the general enlightenment of the mind, and another of which is material benefit when seeking the improvement of our status in the world: medical advances, increases in our efficiency that help us feed more people, etc. But even the so-called "STEM" fields that don't give us precious medical treatments or important ways of feeding people are beneficial; even scientific research about things that don't seem central to human life is important and enlightening and useful. It's just that all of this has to be grounded in a wide-ranging conception of Liberal Arts as truly liberating studies, and at their core must be an attempt to make the world a better place. That includes trying to figure out what it means to make the world a better place.
posted by koeselitz at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


> The first is a messy agglomeration of four unrelated fields which we mash together with no justification,

I did upvote your comment, but that part is ridiculous. STEM refers to a pretty clear and specific set of talents and skills which are at least somewhat interchangeable - I have had jobs categorized under each letter of this quadrumvirate.

It all comes down to numeric/logical chops. Can you make the numbers and logic come out right almost every time, and figure out what's wrong when you don't? Then I have a career for you in pretty well any STEM field you are interested in.

> I think we value writing. There is more writing then ever.

These two seem to sit in opposition to each other - scarcity value, familiarity breeds contempt, etc. I'd also say that we no longer want to pay for writing, which would seem to indicate we don't value it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:33 PM on July 30, 2015


Oh blah blah blah blah-de-blah, you guys! Can't you make a graph or a spreadsheet or something?
posted by newdaddy at 6:55 PM on July 30, 2015


For people with STEM degrees this world sure doesn't seem STEM obsessed, let alone to put "math and science first." So yeah, opening with that totally gratuitous line in an otherwise unobjectionable article is going to get some pushback.

A doctor is told to only spend 15 minutes per patient, a bench chemist is running 1000 samples through the same damn assay every day, a CS type is writing automated test scripts for the last few years. They daydream about the projects they wish they could spend their time on.

Then a writer chimes in to tell them they don't value creativity. That's just cold.
posted by mark k at 9:38 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Of the 1,791,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2011–12, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business (367,000), social sciences and history (179,000), health professions and related programs (163,000), psychology (109,000), and education (106,000).

This is really interesting. I had a gut feeling that the numbers fell out something like that, but hadn't ever seen them before to confirm. I spend a fair bit of my time doing recruiting/hiring, and the number of undergrad "business" degrees is quite high, but I was willing to chalk it up to sample bias. Personally, I think they are something of a scam perpetrated on students, who I suspect tend to dramatically overestimate their attractiveness to employers compared to traditional liberal arts degrees, but don't find out the error of this assumption until it's too late.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:18 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall the countless number of scientists and engineers in the realm of the Third Reich who were forced to either seek asylum in the U.S. under threat of death and the most of rest of the German physicists were sent on the front lines as cannon fodder to die in Stalingrad.

Not all writers and poets were targeted nor all scientists and engineers. When dictators come to power both are used for the purpose of the leadership or sent to die on a whim. Can we stop drawing these stupid lines in the sand please? The best scientists have a firm grasp on the liberal arts and vice versa. This is not a zero sum game.
posted by WhitenoisE at 11:37 PM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


No need to inject a false dichotomy, WhitenoisE. Nobody is saying that all artists are X and all scientists are Y. I have a degree in Science! and work in a lab. My partner is an artist and doing another post-graduate degree in the humanities. Ethically, philosophically, our colleagues aren't exactly disjoint sets, but the differences are trivial to discern.

Also, many of the scientists who fled Germany were Jewish, so...
posted by klanawa at 2:47 PM on August 1, 2015


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