Opinion: What does the post-pandemic future look like for STEM & Humanities?
Updated: Mar 22
Audience: Middle and High School Students
COVID-19 has knocked the world off-balance and while we are watching the effects it’s having globally, we don’t know what this means for the future. What will the STEM to humanities ratio look like in 20 years: Will society be lopsided in favor of technology?
I know more about how viruses and airborne diseases work than 13 years of schooling have taught me — because of COVID-19.
During this unprecedented time, people of all ages (including young students) are learning lessons in basic biology to understand why wearing a mask and social distancing are necessary measures. As elementary school students learn to navigate the ins and outs of Zoom classes, Wi-Fi issues, and digital learning, they enhance their technological know-how. But with limited socializing, these young students aren’t learning the soft skills, namely communication, crucial to social and emotional development. As with any issue, there are pros and cons to the increase in STEM learning and decrease in humanities, but which outweighs the other?
Looking to the future, this generation of students between ages 5 and 13 — the critical ages for social and emotional development — will be very tech savvy, likely advancing technological development in society at a rapid pace.
I fully believe that due to this pandemic, objects predicted to be invented 50 years from now might come much sooner. In fact, growing up amidst so much loss might inspire students to create life-saving inventions. There are a million and one ways to save lives and improve society using STEM, from developing vaccines or treatments to creating machines to efficiently produce them, and I believe this new generation will uncover and execute them all.
But a loss of soft skills — communicating and socializing effectively, developing personality and character, and learning social and emotional intelligence — is an inevitability with a cloistered (sheltered) generation. These skills are not only valuable in humanities-centered careers; in fact, most STEM careers require the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. Without learning how to talk to others in a social setting, how might this group of students interact once they are adults?
Of course, these ideas are based on the presumption that students are not developing these skills, which may very well be false. With hundreds of online activities to allow students to socialize safely popping up, they might be getting even more of a social and emotional education, though online. The real issue is that nobody knows how students will react to quarantine and the pandemic.
Like Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Some students may be inspired to become doctors or develop drugs and vaccines, while others might want to figure out the deeper meaning of life after having lived in a time of such death. I think both of these things will happen; this would be no different than any other generation, but their motivations might be different. Everyone will be affected, but differently. However, I have faith that this quarantined generation will take us further as a society than almost any generation before.
Seale, Colin. “A Perfect Time To End Our STEM Obsession: 3 Ideas For Teaching Critical Thinking At Home During (And After) The Coronavirus Pandemic.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Mar. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/colinseale/2020/03/15/a-perfect-time-to-end-our-stem-obsession-5-ideas-for-teaching-critical-thinking-at-home-during-and-after-the-coronavirus-pandemic/.
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