Last month Astronomy magazine published an essay I wrote on its blog site, “The Local Group.” Oddly enough, this has me thinking about the humanities.
Recently there has been much talk within the astronomy community about the lack of interest in the hobby among young people. My essay is about my own personal journey in the hobby. I had great interest in space and astronomy even as a little kid. I was good at math and science in school. Yet ultimately I was drawn to a humanities field. I love to write, majored in communication in college, and have spent more than 30 years in journalism, public relations, and public affairs. Only in the last 10 years has my interest in astronomy flowered into active participation in observing. I also write about astronomy on my blog, Seattle Astronomy.
There is a similar discussion going on in education about the fact that there are not enough young people going into science and engineering to fill good available jobs. Music and arts education are sometimes devalued, and public policy discussions about education often pit STEM against the arts and humanities. I find it disappointing when the debate is framed in that way. Both are important.
Scheiderer Partners is in touch with both our scientific and creative sides! Our clients include higher education, arts, and science and engineering organizations. A recent project was to work for state funding for Washington MESA, a program that helps students from groups underrepresented in math, engineering, and science enter and excel in those fields. We’ve also worked with our partner Seven November for the University of Washington School of Drama, and do marketing for GreenStage, Seattle’s Shakespeare in the Park company.
There are good STEM jobs available, to be sure, but many employers are also looking for people who are good at expressing themselves and who are creative thinkers, the sorts of skills honed in a more traditional liberal arts education. There’s also great evidence that music in particular feeds the brain’s ability to grasp math. And what are we without art and culture?
There are several articles in the July 19 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education about the state of the humanities these days. They make for interesting reading.
Gladly, more people seem to be understanding that humanities are important. At a legislative forum during my work for Washington MESA, one person testified that we should not focus on STEM, but on STEAM, adding an A for arts. A later speaker advocated for SHTEAM, to put humanities into the mix. The acronym could get out of hand in a hurry, but the sentiment is good. A well-rounded education prepares one not just for a job, but a quality life. Let’s support both, full STEAM ahead!