For well over a decade now, our education systems have been putting increased emphasis on developing the STEM curriculum. And there has been good reasons for this. Many of the celebrated innovations of the last 50 years are a result of work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — the Apollo moon landing, the personal computer, the Internet, the smartphone.
But what these technologies giveth, they may also taketh away. In fact, many of the recent crises of confidence in democratic institutions are largely a product of these same technological innovations. We see it with Russian hackers meddling in the US election and the Brexit vote. We see it in the fake profiles and manipulations at Twitter and Facebook. And we see it with what is now being called cyberterrorism.
And what’s the solution to these problems? More of the same it seems — better data handling techniques and technologies at Facebook and Twitter, improved surveillance with facial recognition technology, and hacking counter-measures.
But what if we are barking up the wrong tree? What if what is needed is not simply more STEM solutions but greater attention to the tasks of democratic self-governance with a curriculum rich in law, ethics, government, and society — courses in those so-called soft disciplines of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Now do not get me wrong. I am not saying that these need or should replace STEM education. What I am saying is that STEM means little or nothing without some LEGS — Law, Ethics, Government, and Society.
I’m David Gunkel and that’s my perspective.