A fantastic op-ed by Fareed Zakaria on why a well-rounded populace is a good thing:
A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy.
And on innovation for the future of the U.S.:
Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want. America will not dominate the 21st century by making cheaper computer chips but instead by constantly reimagining how computers and other new technologies interact with human beings.
I could not agree more. I studied pop culture and journalism in college after changing majors from marine biology my third year. I now have a very successful career in the STEM world, but I’ve never taken a computer science course. Heck, I’ve never even taken a typing course.
(I kinda regret that second one.)
I don’t think I would be where I am today if I did not spend time in psychology, sociology, literature, drama, and anthropology classes. It’s not that a computer science course or two wouldn’t have helped me (it certainly would have), but broad exposure leads to broad perspectives and innovative thinking. It helps us see the interconnectedness of what surrounds us and helps us do our jobs better, no matter what our jobs are.
Fareed makes a lot of great points in this op-ed and you should definitely give it a read, but I will leave you with this important warning:
Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are oriented around memorization and test-taking. I went through that kind of system. It has its strengths, but it’s not conducive to thinking, problem solving or creativity. That’s why most Asian countries, from Singapore to South Korea to India, are trying to add features of a liberal education to their systems.