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All School Debate - Updated

April 10, 2015

During assembly on Friday, April 10, the final round of the annual all-school debate tackled the question of whether a STEM education is more valuable than a liberal arts education. Speaking in the positive were seniors Jasnaam Grewal and Grace Haselhorst. Speaking in the negative were juniors Josh Kazdan and Samuel Oh, who were later declared the winners by other debate students. Before the debate began, congratulations were extended to winners of the 7th & 8th division, 8th graders Alex Duncan and Cary Smith, and to winners of the 9th & 10th division, sophomores Ian Doty and Sophia Marusic.

The debate followed the traditional model:  Grace (+) and Josh (-) delivered opening remarks, followed by cross examination, and then Jasnaam (+) and Samuel (-) closed the debate with final remarks and rebuttal. Main threads and a few photos, courtesy of Margaret Bahe (science, yearbook) follow:

IN THE POSITIVE
STEM education (that is, an education with emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

  • develops important skills and is the key to innovation
  • is a better return on investment than a liberal arts education
  • improves prospects for employment and earning potential because business and government value STEM skills
  • contributes to resolution of important global and social issues, including global warming and the search for alternative fuel, the future of technological warfare and creative approaches to medical issues in the developing world.

The U.S. is facing a serious decline in scientific and mathematical proficiency in comparison to other highly developed and developing nations. It is an absolute necessity for America to improve its global standings in both math and science, since a majority of the global economy and growing markets is centered around jobs in these fields. STEM supports the fastest growing job sectors and the world's biggest challenges.

IN THE NEGATIVE
A liberal arts education (that is, an education which includes the study of language, history, math, sciences, the arts and more)

  • is valued by major players in technology and innovation, e.g., Apple's Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
  • is championed by the three nations with the highest GDPs — Israel, America and Norway
  • is being embraced by many Asian nations, including South Korea and China, which are moving away from a strictly fact-based education

Although the unemployment rate for liberal arts majors is higher than that of STEM majors, it is only 0.4 percent higher, and while the average liberal arts major makes less than a STEM major in his first job, at peak earnings the liberal arts major earns more. A majority of American CEOs believe a comprehensive liberal arts education is more valuable than a purely STEM-based education, and an even larger majority indicate that communication skills are the selling point when they're hiring. STEM and liberal arts are not mutually exclusive —  a liberal arts education marries STEM with a study of the humanities.