Science vs. Humanities: Educating citizens of the future

We are living exciting times where knowledge flows and gets shared like never before. We are flooded everyday with awesome technological scientific novelties that are almost immediately incorporated to our lives.

Science is no longer the exclusive domain of scientists and is more present than ever in our day to day.

Technological development is dizzying and its impact on human development is giving rise to an increasing need for changes in educational models.

The needs have changed and this implies that the educational methods and contents should change according to the new demands of society. Many of the skills and competencies that an education from the XXI century requires are very different to those currently taught in most of the schools worldwide.

In many countries there are signals showing the beginning of a change or, at least, an attempt to introduce new methods. Changes in curriculum contents and the incorporation of tools and methods related to new technologies and to the information society.

During this unfolding process there are many who defend the need to educate “citizens of the future”, who will be able to work in jobs that we do not even imagine yet, solving problems that are nonexistent nowadays. Many who believe in training useful citizens for a future society totally unknown to us.

But… Are we addressing this educational revolution in a right way? I cannot help but wonder if we are not making the same mistakes we made in the past. Because… yes, we live in the knowledge society, but… what sort of knowledge?

Educational models from many countries are increasingly taking a side for Science subjects versus the rest

from the Elementary school, seeking to respond to the growing need of professionals with a technical background, one of the current keys to improving the economic competitiveness of a country. These are the subjects that are known as STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. No doubt, what are at stake are the demands of an increasingly technological society where the development of robotics, biotechnology, computing and big data is one step to take for the most competitive economies. And to meet this, technicians, engineers, programmers, doctors, biologists, mathematicians, scientists… (clearly technical profiles) are surely required.

But what implications can it have to promote an education based on science subjects rather than on subjects related to the humanities?

Definitely an education where contents related to literature, art, philosophy, history, social sciences, etc. have a secondary role, does not only mean taking a risk of cultural loss, but also means training individuals with a lack of vision of the ultimate goal which gives meaning to many of the problems Science faces continuously.

To the concrete, the specific, the accurate, the absolute, the empirical facts that Science entails, we must not oppose but add the global, social, relative and even randomized vision of Humanities.

This antagonistic concept of science and humanities was presented by Charles Percy Snow in 1959 during his lecture “The Two Cultures”, in which he referred to the lack of understanding and communication between the scientific community and humanistic as one of the drawbacks to solving the big problems of the world.

Today, in a more technological society than ever, it seems essential to overcome this barrier between the two cultures (scientific and humanistic) and propose an education that integrates both branches of knowledge.

Creativity, self-improvement, analytical skills, effectiveness in problem solving, research, discussion, reflection, collaboration, empathy skills … are not dependent solely on scientific knowledge, but rather on the ability of individuals to relate seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas, the ability to develop a global vision of problems and to properly define the objectives and methods of coping with it, on having a mindset to understand different realities and arguments other than their own, on the skills to apply principles of moderation and / or firmness (assertiveness) in defense of their ideas and in their relationship with others…

The purpose of education should not be just to train individuals to be highly productive for society. In our opinion, the purpose of education is to educate people in the ability of managing their lives in a healthy way, both from a physical and mental point of view, to allow them to achieve their own personal goals and those of the society in which they work and live.

Science has allowed humans to articulate and organize the knowledge in a coherent, orderly and demonstrable way that helps them explain and understand their environment and their own existence, to successfully face the challenges that allow them to live longer and better. Science, in its original concept, is at the service of humanities.

The values and ethical principles of a society are shaped by history, philosophy, art, language, literature … and of course by science, and its study is very important to get to know ourselves as individuals and as a society. Humanities empowers individuals with a more plural, more alternative, more inaccurate and wider knowledge which helps us develop skills that allow us to empathize with other human beings and let us have a more global and pluralistic view of the problems we have to face both in our lives and work.

In Classical Greece philosophy was seen as the mother of all sciences, namely as an integral subject covering all branches of knowledge, which helped have a comprehensive understanding of the world. And this global vision, more humanistic, along with the more specific capabilities and methodical characteristics of the scientific profiles is what allows us to face with the best guarantees of success the great problems of our time.

Competitiveness is important in the progress of our society, but not at any price. Not at the expense of cultural loss which certainly precedes economic and social impoverishment.

We need, as well as technological progress, individuals with a strong background in values and with enough vision to meet new challenges in a sustainable away, people responsible with other human beings and with their environment.

And this is fundamentally a science education, a STEM education, but certainly combined with humanities subjects to strengthen education in values, critical thinking and a global perspective of our challenges.

This is the vision and commitment that we have in Elesapiens as creators of Educational Contents for Elementary Science: the creation of resources that enhance the mainstreaming between the two cultures, the two ways of thinking, scientist and humanist, to boost Curiosity, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Teamwork in students.

Education is facing new and unknown challenges. Nobody has a crystal ball, but the vision and the ability to balance correctly sciences and humanities in education, in the curriculum and new content and materials, is one of the main keys to face with the best guarantees of success the future of human being.

We live and celebrate the knowledge society! But … how do we want this society to be in the coming years?

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