They say utilitarianism happens when STEM people try to do humanities. While this definition of utilitarianism isn’t exactly fair, it isn’t that far off the mark, either. Sure, STEM is important for the progress of the future of mankind as a whole, but it’s just a part of the larger picture.
You must know the Jurassic Park quote-turned-meme:
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
While STEM should be the answer to the question of what we can do, ethics should provide the answer to what we should do. On a micro-scale and in our personal lives, however, we can’t always apply high ethical principles. Instead, we need to rely on our social and emotional intelligence. This is sharpened through SEL learning.
Here’s how STEM and SEL are supposed to fit together in your classroom.
STEM is a curriculum teaching an approach that focuses on:
These four are the baseline of the modern world, which is why those working in STEM fields seem to fare best in the modern job market.
STEM jobs are always in demand, they pay the best, and people working in these fields enjoy high societal respect. Namely, whenever you hear about any kind of social inequality (like a gender wage gap), one of the leading arguments is that the X group is underrepresented in the STEM field. This alone should be enough to testify to the socioeconomic influence of STEM in today’s society.
So, what is SEL? Simply put, SEL is the abbreviation for – social and emotional learning. This is a framework that helps students learn how to:
- Manage their emotions
- Nurture relationship skills
- Develop social awareness
As such, it can help students fit in better, which is important throughout their lives but may also greatly benefit their future STEM collaboration and careers.
While these two concepts seem like opposites, the truth is that they rely heavily on each other for optimal results. Here are a few factors that should help you see this.
People have different learning styles and even completely different personalities. This is important for many reasons. Some of the strongest SEL critics argue that social skills should be developed naturally and intrinsically (as opposed to being taught systematically).
However, breaking down social skills into components and insisting on the fact that they’re something that can be learned and improved is hardly a new concept. Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People was published in 1936, and it contains some of the core SEL principles. It teaches people how to establish and maintain friendships, be more empathetic, and reveal many secrets to a successful collaboration (which is something without which STEM cannot even exist).
Simply put, SEL is a STEM approach to developing social skills, so it’s hardly surprising that it would be effective for people in STEM fields.
Focusing too much on just a handful of fields creates an imbalance in your life. Sure, just grinding toward improving your STEM skills will provide you a better salary, but SEL will help you establish better, more meaningful connections with your coworkers. It will help you outside work and create the work-life balance you’re striving toward.
No matter how talented, a single person never handled a great project on their own.
When asked why Oppenheimer never won a Nobel Prize, many of his peers agreed that he hated working on long projects or sitting too long behind a desk proving a theory. Instead, he was described as a great people-person, an even better manager, and a charismatic leader. He also had a vision who could always see the big picture but lacked the Sitzfleisch to see it through and through.
However, he had more than a few laureates on his team, each of which was probably more easily replaceable than Oppenheimer. Managing such a huge project required more than just STEM knowledge. Can this level of management be done without an understanding of STEM? Hardly, after all, to manage effectively, you need to understand (and understand well) what everyone else’s doing.
People often underestimate how stressful STEM can be. Tasks are challenging, and while solving something is rewarding, it takes incredible hours, and, at times, it can be quite frustrating.
It’s also worth mentioning that while we’ve previously talked about STEM collaborations, it’s not how you currently imagine it. You’re thinking of many people sitting around the whiteboard through one idea after another. The thing is that 99% of the time, this collaboration consists of many people doing their part of the equation on their own and, eventually, seeing how it all comes down together.
This can be incredibly stressful. Not only is your work difficult, but it also affects the work of others. Through SEL, you can learn how to self-manage and regulate your own emotions. This will help your mental stability even during the most challenging tasks.
People in STEM usually have a hard time accepting their limitations. Sometimes, a failure to complete a task is seen as having a devastating effect on one’s life; however, this is a nonsensical approach to the field that contains a lot of unsolved (or even unsolvable problems). Through SEL, you’ll become better at accepting these obstacles and setting realistic goals. It’s great to strive for perfection, but it’s not OK to feel like a failure when you fail to reach it. This is one of the useful messages that you can learn through SEL.
As you can see, SEL and STEM go perfectly together and should be taught hand in hand. SEL compensates for some of the STEM’s weaker points and enhances your ability to perform many STEM tasks. Most importantly, it leads to more fulfilling (not just more successful) collaborations and allows you to achieve a healthier work-life balance. These are just some reasons why SEL and STEM are compatible and why you should incorporate both in your classroom.