Aired: September 7, 2013

STEM vs. the Humanities?

science mural
Courtesy of Flickr user Toban Black

We have a way of talking about STEM fields as the opposite of the humanities–but it’s hard to have one without the other.  Debbie Sterling of Goldieblox believes that combining reading and engineering is the best way to get young girls interested in the subject.  And if you’ve ever tried to put Ikea furniture together, you know how important it is that working engineers learn to communicate.  Mohamed Gad-el-Hak (Virginia Commonwealth University) has designed a writing course specifically for engineering students.  According to Daniel Becker, (University of Virginia) a focus on reading and writing makes better doctors, too.  He’s a doctor and a writer, as well as mentor to Nitin Ahuja (University of Virginia) and Laura Kolbe (University of Virginia).   Plus: It’s almost impossible to imagine modern life without the zipper.  Yet for thirty years after its invention, it was so mechanically awkward that it had no real advantage over hooks and buttons.  Robert Friedel, author of Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, examines how new things become part of and actually shape our daily lives.  Friedel and Professor of Business Administration Alexander Horniman–both with the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business–show how the zipper illustrates the limitations and expectations of technology.  The zipper, they say, is a wonderful example of technology looking for meaning:  “Our technologies do not themselves contain their meaning.  We impose meaning on our technology.”



3 Comments on “STEM vs. the Humanities?”

  1. Bill Warren

    I appreciate the opportunity to get WGR programs on iTunes, but the very short descriptions available there are almost useless. A couple of sentences at least would be much better, especially since most programs cover several topics.

  2. Kelley Libby

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your feedback. We’re going to look into it and see if we can improve the descriptions and how they’re listed.


  3. Bob Corder

    I’m glad to see that there is, finally, a growing recognition of the vital link between the humanities and STEM fields of study at other universities. While a student in the University of Virginia’s engineering school way back in the 1960s, we had courses in the humanities along with our engineering courses!

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