I’ve been sitting here at my desk today working to get a project out the door and something occurred to me about China, India, and how the United States compares against them in terms of STEM output from our students (STEM being the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-related degrees).
China and India are likely to produce many top-notch critical and analytical thinkers. They’ll produce highly skilled and knowledgeable technologists at an insane rate we can’t compete with by the simple fact we don’t have as many people. But smart for the sake of being smart (by our modern day definition), and quantity for the sake of quantity doesn’t always produce innovative new products and services.
America’s advantage here, assuming we still have one, is that we are and will produce more people who are more creative and imaginative. But that’s only so long as we continue to invest in the arts, the liberal arts, and services that help kids, teens, and adults at all levels of education excel in those areas. Cutting art and music programs in schools and shunning the liberal arts at the college and career level is a dangerous thing to cut. Plus, we have to be willing to understand that a person with a strong background in the liberal arts can be just as valuable to a team as an engineer or math prodigy.
It’s these people, the ones who know how to stand at that famous intersection of humanities and sciences that Steve Jobs touted that will prove invaluable to us. They’ll be the ones producing innovative new thinking.