The nation’s schools have been quick to adopt STEM focused education, “but the study of science, technology, engineering and math in a vacuum stymies innovation and invention. It is the knowledge of history that puts America’s innovative and inventive spirit into context and encourages even greater achievements,” according to history advocate David Bruce Smith.
STEM education is creating a student body of so-called “mathletes,” says Smith. “They graduate with the tools and knowledge needed for the jobs of the future as intended by President Obama when he announced his Educate to Innovate initiative in 2013. But that’s not what a well-rounded education is all about.”
The arts and the humanities, and history in particular, are critical components of a well-developed mind, he says.
One of the nation’s most innovative and successful champions of the computer age, Steve Jobs, put it this way: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”
Smith, who is co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize, says he is a proponent of the new educational emphasis on technical skills, as long as we don’t forget that students need to understand the world in which we live. “And the only way to teach students that part of the equation is to ensure they know how and why the events and personalities of the past shaped our society and its future.”
The Prize is Smith’s way of making sure that the “mathletes” understand America’s success as a nation is the result of efforts to provide our children with a comprehensive education over nearly two and a half centuries. The award is meant to encourage authors and publishers to produce works of fiction and non-fiction that are focused on history, and can capture the imaginations of young learners—particularly those in middle school. The books are not intended to replace the history texts that students find so boring, but to inspire them to learn more about who we are and how we got here.
“There are those who rely on the results of international testing to show how lacking is our system of education. But the fact remains: the U.S. has consistently dominated technology and science. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin’s scientific discoveries and advancements give proof to that, as do the inventions of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. America gave birth to the Industrial Revolution with the help of people like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. We harnessed the atom. And, we produced the minds of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates– arguably the brains behind the computer age.”