Politicians and business leaders commonly warn that more students need to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so that the country can retain its competitive edge.
But at the Washington Post, Rhodes College's Loretta Jackson-Hayes argues that there is a slightly different need: She says more STEM majors with a liberal arts background are needed.
"While STEM workers can certainly drive innovation through science alone, imagine how much more innovative students and employees could be if the pool of knowledge from which they draw is wider and deeper. That occurs as the result of a liberal arts education," she writes.
Innovators have ignored the artificial divide between the sciences and liberal arts, Jackson-Hayes says. For instance, she notes that Leonardo da Vinci's study of anatomy informed his drawings, while Apple's Steve Perlman was inspired to invent QuickTime by a Star Trek episode.
She adds that students in her chemistry lab often come up with creative solutions to problems they face. "To reduce calculation errors, one of my students wrote a user-friendly computer program to automatically measure replicate volumes. He did this by drawing on programming skills he learned in a computer science course he took for fun," Jackson-Hayes writes. "Young people stuck exclusively in chemistry lecture halls will not evolve the same way."