e198. STEM vs Humanities: the Clatter in the Classroom

Episode artwork for Stem vs. Humanities featuring Rocky and Clubber Lang

If you’ve been or known any kid who has gone to an American school in the last 50 years or so you’ve probably heard the advice to “get into STEM” because that’s where the future is. It’s an odd bit of advice really, because essentially all it means is “Hey kids! Pay attention in school except to the humanities stuff… screw that!” It doesn’t really differentiate between which STEM fields are important. It doesn’t really explain why. It doesn’t explain why the non-STEM fields are less important or what fits into which one. It’s just… something people started saying after we invented the A-bomb and then never stopped. If you’ve heard this advice you might think that everyone who goes to college for “some STEM job” becomes a billionaire and everyone who studies some art or humanities field ends up homeless. Unless you’ve been to college and gotten a degree in either of those things and aren’t currently a billionaire or homeless. Then you might feel lied to. Or maybe you went to college and you never noticed any kind of struggle between STEM vs Humanities at all. Maybe you were all geared up for it… you had your knuckles taped up and had a shiv hidden away in some uncomfortable place, just waiting to shank a history major or bust a physic major in the jaw and that day never came. Did you miss something? Is there really a gang war in the halls of academia? Is STEM vs Humanities even a thing?

Not really. Or at least not for most of us. The truth is for most academics we’re pretty busy and wrapped up in whatever we’re doing to care that much about what other people are doing. Any resentment that does exist is probably wrapped up in a lack of understanding about the other fields. At least for most of us. For some, there apparently is some bit of tension… and those people are crazy! But how did we get here? And why? On today’s show Hannah, Katya and Mav are joined by chemistry professor Kevin W. Davies to discuss the breakdown between STEM vs. Humanities fields and the misconceptions about both. Join us as we explain what it’s like to walk between the worlds, what the fields can learn from each other, and how academia really deals with (or honestly, mostly ignores) the distinctions. We also talk about landmines a bunch. Why? Well, you’ll just have to listen.Then, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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