The World, STEM and History,

It could be this is just an old liberal-arts grad yelling at the sky, but here goes…

Tuition at Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Mountain View California is $38,000. Its student body comprises many of the offspring of Silicon Valley tech executives. The school’s curriculum emphasizes literature, mathematics and science; also visual and performing arts. Students learn cursive writing using pen and paper. Teachers illustrate lessons by hand on chalkboards. There are no computers in the classrooms. Those who have made fortunes convincing school districts on the importance of technology in the classroom — and designing software intended to be addictive — want their own children to grow up without it.

Many Big-Tech parents do not allow cell phones or tablets at home.

  • “They’re not allowed to use this shit.” — Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, confirming that his children did not have iPads
  • “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” — Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, calling himself a “conscientious objector” to social media
  • “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.” — Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice-president of user growth

Big-Tech parents are not dismissing the importance of STEM education. They’re just convinced that science, technology, engineering, mathematics are better mastered the old-fashioned way, not by watching and manipulating what’s on a screen. There is plenty of time for electronic devices as their children grow older.

Also making a comeback: liberal arts education. Well, maybe. When the Republicans crashed our economy in 2008, students took up technology-related studies as the safest way to get a job after graduation. The number of computer-science majors more that doubled in less than a decade while the number of History majors in college dropped by a third. The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point recently proposed eliminating History as a major. But the elites, you know the people who run the world, aren’t going along with that.

History Departments at Yale, and other Ivy League schools, are thriving. A cynic might speculate that students there are not subject to economic vicissitudes to the degree others are. A liberal-arts degree from an elite school still gains admittance to the Goldman Sachs of the world or medical schools. But it also gives one an understanding of the wider world and a person’s place in it.

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