I have a friend who has an advanced degree in science, but he can’t spell worth a damn. I, on the other hand, am a professional writer who failed introductory calculus. It’s not a stretch to say that the world is made up of a lot of people with varying skills and talents, and that it would be a poorer place without any of us. We need each other. We need each other’s skills.
So why is it that for nearly my whole lifetime, so much time, energy, and money has been spent on that area now known as STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math? Granted that these are very important, but you know how a lot of your STEM geeks got there? By reading. By reading a story someone had written. That’s written, not derived, not programmed, not built.
Literature (and art of all kinds) forms the basis of our culture. From the very beginning of Man, storytelling served to pass the wisdom of the ages from one generation to the next. Long before there were lasers, there were legends. People were writing on tablets long before you had to have a Ph.D. to design one.
So why this emphasis on one over the other? Why do girls have to be pushed toward physics and engineering? And why can’t boys be pushed toward creative writing and literature?
I’d like to introduce my answer to STEM. It’s called BREW: Books, Reading, English, Writing. In a world where most of us (not just scientists) can’t use an apostrophe correctly, should we not be putting as much effort into making sure students can communicate their accomplishments properly as in the accomplishments themselves? And should we not tell them that communication can be an accomplishment in itself?
Yes, there are already those who can do both, Isaac Asimov, for instance. But even Asimov spent less time making discoveries than communicating those discoveries in a way that the common man could comprehend.
So I’m calling on readers and writers and humanities majors everywhere to stand up for their rights. Insist on equal time for books that aren’t full of numbers. Demand that kids who can add and subtract and extract cube roots be able to spell and punctuate–and maybe even tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Because if our technology ever gets away from us, and we go back to living in caves and ruined cities–what else will we have?