« Civility isn’t the answer: Jennifer Mercieca on the state of political discourse | Main | Folding it up is not the problem: Meredith Broussard on why paper maps still matter »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


In the article "Math and Science Can't Take Priority Over History and Civics", Natalie Wexler is addressing an observation about the current U.S. education culture. It is true that there is a greater emphasis today put on STEM majors than in previous generations. With majors like queer musicology, gender studies, and parapsychology, of course the government is urging its students to study something a bit more practical. However, Natalie is arguing that we should stop investing so much in these and put a greater focus on history and civics. I disagree, and I'm not even a STEM major.

While I do believe these subjects cannot be replaced, to say that we shouldn't encourage more rigorous study of science, technology, engineering, and math is ludicrous. Students should be able to study what they want. We are, for most of us, paying for it in one way, shape, or form. It is no secret that those with a more specific set of skills developed by studying these subjects in higher education have a higher earning potential. If higher earning potential is what is valued by a society, and it certainly is by our's, then that is what should emphasized.

Wexler goes on to say, "We know that only a minority of students will end up working in STEM fields. But virtually all will be expected to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy. And if they don’t have the background knowledge and vocabulary necessary to understand a newspaper article or even a news report on TV, we’re all in trouble." This is a clear example of a straw man argument. No one said we shouldn't teach students democratic knowledge or vocabulary. There are required subjects throughout grade school that teach us this stuff.

If a student excels in other subjects, they should have every right to study that instead of something in the STEM field. There are occupational needs for many areas of study. It is silly, though, to claim that students don't need as much education in the STEM subjects. We should champion a well rounded education and emphasize pushing your limits, no matter the academic pursuit.


This article is very interesting for reader in view of children need and want who related their parents how to provide the some supporting to them


While I agree with Wexler that courses like civics, history, and English are very important to developing skills that are useful not only in the workforce but in our personal, social, and political lives. However, the STEM field is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States today. Just look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of Fastest Growing Occupations and you'll see that nearly all jobs on the list are directly or closely related to the STEM field. This is why such an emphasis has been placed on STEM education in schools. There really is a demand for workers with skills relating to STEM programs.

Not only is there a demand, but almost all other fields of study benefit from the STEM field and having skills relating to it. Just look around and pick out any object not found in nature. Someone had to get the materials, design the product, have people or machines that can put it together, and come up with ways through science and technology to make the process more efficient.

This is why STEM fields are being pushed more and more in schools. Everyone benefits from it no matter what occupation you choose to pursue. All the things that make our lives easier and better have some tie to STEM programs and that leads to more innovation, the main focus of STEM.


Wexler begs the question of the importance of S.T.E.M programs, how they will affect the United States as a democracy, and how it will truly assist students in their life past education. She notes that she herself had a lack of development in areas such as chemistry, physics, and calculus, yet didn't feel the need to have them, or that she was at a deficiency without them. Instead, Wexler credits her understanding of geography, government, and history to assisting her throughout her life. Whilst subjects such as history and social studies are important to the improvement of students as citizens, it is foolish to doubt the importance and significance of S.T.E.M programs. With the ever improving and expanding world, the need for workers in S.T.E.M related fields will only increase exponentially.


This article by Wexler examines how STEM education impacts American students from a theoretical and a more realistic perspective. I found it interesting how Wexler's opinion was a refreshed perspective on the prominent push for STEM education. As she provides a personal experience, Wexler states how her lack of exposure to subjects like chemistry and calculus did not hinder her ability to live out a fruitful life and be an informed citizen. Instead, she suggests that schools should be focussing on more practical courses like civics and government in order to create an ideal democracy that would contribute to a more informed future generation of thinkers. While I see where Wexler is coming from, as a student who enjoys math and science courses, I find it very hard to imagine a school system that does not prioritize these subjects. Frankly, it is a bit hasty to assume that math and science-based classes won't benefit people's futures. There are many jobs that require extensive knowledge in these areas and I believe Wexler's views are bordering a very narrow view that is highly motivated by personal interests. Our technology-based world is changing so rapidly that the need for STEM workers will be at high demand. Focussing on literature-based classes quite frankly might hinder our advancement, but this is not to say that being familiar with our government is not necessary.


Wexler's examination of the suddenly urgent agenda that seeks to expose traditional education to a more STEM focused ideology succeeds flawlessly in providing the relevancy of the issue to the reader. I do, however, have to disagree with the idea that focusing mainly on subjects related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is somehow detrimental to the overall education of students. STEM careers are truly the future in my opinion, and in the best interest of students, should definitely be pushed heavily in regards to tradition education. As opposed to history, civics, and/or arts oriented classes, STEM careers have real world application that is immediately evident. I must respect Wexler's in her views as they are not completely unfounded, but I also believe that they are somewhat founded on an unwillingness to perceive the future in a way in which sciences are connected to everything inevitably. These types of views can be dangerous to the true progression of society, especially since STEM careers share a clear link to major global issues such as disease, pollution, hunger, and war.


Wexler shows us how, despite what politicians and employers claim, while STEM education is important, non-STEM education is just as important. She uses her own experience and statistics to show how an over-emphasis in STEM education can dominate society's academia and cause negative side effects.

Rosa Montiel

I feel there is much to be said for the STEM education. I know its very popular in elementary and moving forward. But the key is not only STEM but a student must know what they are good at and really enjoy and focus on that. Education is key regardless of what direction in the educational direction you take.

Jamie Beardsley

In this article, the author Natalie Wexler is arguing that America needs to put less focus on STEM education and prioritize subjects, such as history, geography, and civics. Her purpose in writing this article is to generate more emphasis for subjects that promote “soft” skills, like leadership, communication skills, and the ability to work with others, and not just analytical and problem-solving skills. Wexler claims that a majority of STEM workers end up in non-STEM occupations because employers see their credentials as substitutes for the skills they want. She argues that many of the skills taught in STEM classes can essentially be taught in any other class, but that it is hard to think analytically about a topic that you don’t know about. Wexler insists that we need to teach students as much information as possible, giving them the ability to process and analyze any new information they may encounter. She concedes that there is only so much time in a school day to teach students everything and suggests focusing on the general knowledge that most Americans will need in society. Wexler emphasizes that national test scores are low in subjects like history and geography, and that many people can’t answer basic questions on those subjects. She reminds us that only a small number of students will go on to work in STEM, but all will be functioning members of society who are expected to “exercise their rights as citizens of a democracy”. Wexler argues that we need to prioritize certain subjects if we want our democratic system to grow and endure.
I’m of two minds about Wexler’s claim that STEM should not be prioritized in schools. On the one hand, I agree that students should be taught a variety of subjects in school. On the other hand, I’m not sure if prioritizing subjects like history, civics and geography over subjects that are essential to learning how to analyze and problem solve. I think that teaching STEM is vital to the education of students. Although I grant that learning about many different subjects allows for a well-rounded student, I still maintain that due to its basic background in analytical and problem-solving skills, STEM is a vital part of education and should be given more focus. In the same way, STEM is also able to transcend many fields and occupations. My point is not that STEM is applicable to all careers, but that what is learned in STEM courses can be applicable to many subject areas.


I like all these comments.


I disagree with Wexler's point that making STEM subjects as priority is meaning that we don't take any history or geography class at all.Those people who are in lack of basic knowledge of history and geography of their own country are responsible for their own flaw, because this is not the education system's fault. You can't blame that some students have terrible grades and performances on the educational system. If you blame the education system for students having horrible performances, why don't you praise the education system for students who have good grades? This is double standard. I personally, as a STEM student, have to take history and geography class as the requirements of my high school, and I don't think making STEM subjects my priority leads to bad performance on my history class. Wexler should think over again, is it really the education system's fault, or it is just because some students are just not perfect?


I both agree and disagree to Wexler's article about STEM subjects. I agree by the fact that you can learn a lot from history, civics and geographic. I think that there are a lot of things that we do wrong in our society today that easily could have been undone if we all had a bigger knowledge in history and what happened in the past. But rather than putting STEM subject against "soft" subject why not have both? The soft subject that Wexler talks about is crucial regardless if you are a STEM student or not. We are all part of a society and a world where we all have responsibilities as citizens and we have to be involved in what is going on and what has happened before but that doesn't mean that we should chose that knowledge over something else.

I think the knowledge of the "soft" subject we all need in a certain amount just as we all need to know how to count and manage out own economy. And at the end of the day each person is going to have their own favorites and skills in different areas.

Wenyi Zhao

In this article, the author Natalie Wexler argues that the educational system of the United States should put more emphasis in subjects like civic or history. She also points out that it is useless or inappropriate to let those STEM subjects take that much priority. Because all those useful skills or abilities which are preferred in work can be acquired in all classes.
I disagree with her opinion. Those abilities she mentioned like leadership or communicating skills cannot be developed in any class from our silly and naive school time. They need sufficient working and practical experiences and the true society environment which is full of complicated interpersonal relationships. In our school time, which we should emphasize is the development of our academic ability and thinking skills, which may include critical thinking and logical thinking. Undoubtedly, STEM subjects are more effective in this kind of education.

Angxuan Li

In the article written by Natalie Wexler, it argues that American education is supposed to pay less attention to STEM, but more attention to the humanistic education. The author mentioned that STEM education lets students be able to analyze the engineering or math questions but cannot handle some questions such as history or geography. Exactly, what we pump in the daily life cannot always be the problems of math and engineering, however, most of the problems are related to the humanistic education.
If one person is not the professional researcher of the science, how much will STEM help him in the real life? STEM education teaches the students how to deal with the science problems but not the real problems that people are really trouble in. Also, in the future working life, besides some people who work on the field of professional science can really use STEM in the work, majority of us cannot use them. Although STEM can help people improve the analysis thinking when dealing with the problems, but just a kind of thinking way. From the humanistic education, we can also gain a kind of thinking way to handle different situations.

Yule Ma(MG)

In this article, the author Natalie Wexler think history and civics are priority than math and science. In her opinion, she think people can work very well without the math and science, we still can live well without study math and science. But in my opinion, I think it depends on different situations. Some people can only study history and civics, then they will work with those kind of job. But some people need study math and science and work for different kind of job. We need people study different intellectual field to make the ensure social functioning. For example, the virus in 2020, it become to a seriously problem for the whole world, however if nobody study math and civics, then nobody will make the medicine for the virus. Above all, I think it is not a major is priority than other, we should put the same focus on different intellectual field.


The article "Math and Science can't take priority over history and civics" by Wexler, says that they have to pay more attention to subjects like history, civics, English writing and all the ones who are outside the STEM system. I disagree with her, because classes at the STEM system are not just about solving equations and word problems. It also helps you to develop other skills, such as team work, that by excelling in this one you put to practice your communication, leadership and critical thinking to come up with a way of accomplishing your goal. It is just about perspectives. If the class is taught well, there is no reason you are not going to be able to develop the skills you can learn in other classes. Overall, it is important to relate what you know and what you learn to succeed. You don't have to have a close mind and think that because the STEM system classes are mostly about numbers you are not going to learn something else.


In the article "Math and Science Can't take Priority Over History and Civics", Wexler talks about that we should focus more on the history and civics field, not just Stem field. However, I totally disagree with this point. She says only a few STEM students end up being in STEM field jobs. Nonetheless, this can be true, but non-STEM related job needs background of math and science. If they did not have a background in math and science, they would not succeed in other fields either.

Moreover, I understand Wexler's point that there are not enough educations on history and civics than math and science. However, I disagree with this argument. We all know in math and science, there are more advanced courses in high school or college. For instance, in high school, we first learn algebra and later we would learn about calculus. These different math courses are talking about different math skills. On the other hand, history seems to be talking about the same topic over and over even my grade went up to senior year in high school. Therefore, I think the history or civics courses are already enough to let students to learn, and we do not need to invest more to upgrade the history and civics courses.

Yule Ma (MG)

In this article, the author Natalie Wexler think history and civics are priority than math and science. In her opinion, she think people can work very well without the math and science, we still can live well without study math and science. But in my opinion, I think it depends on different situations. Some people can only study history and civics, then they will work for those kind of job. But some people need study math and science and work for different kind of job. We need people study different intellectual field to make the ensure social functioning. For example, the virus in 2020, it become to a seriously problem for the whole world, however if nobody study math and science, then nobody will make the medicine for the virus. Above all, I think it is not a major is priority than other, we should put the same focus on different intellectual field.

Zheng Jia

In this article, the author Natalie Wexler supports people to learn subject as history, geography, and civics. Not just STEM courses. But I think each course has the different value on it. Even if we can not make each course perfect, but we can learn the experience from it. In today's world, soft skill is more important than other. Because having knowledge is the foundation, and then how to apply knowledge to solve the problem is the key to future work. What people learn in school can only be used at work by 10% or less. So, in most university subjects, we should not only learn the content of each class, but also pay attention to how to learn. Learning methods are an important part in out life.

Anh Pham

I disagree with Wexler. While it is true that STEM education is heavily focused on compare to other field of study like civic. geography, history. However, when students is given a choice of what subject they prefer to learn and study, most would simply choose subject not related to STEM out of interest or because they consider STEM is too difficult for them to learn. If students don't step out of their comfort zone, they can't improve their skill and knowledge. Also students may not know what field is most suitable and difficult for them, it is best if student try out more science related subject even if they are not good at it so they can identify their weakness and strength. That is why STEM is should be suggested and recommended more frequently for students who are hesitant to actually try out STEM. Besides that STEM heavily focus on logical brain activity which in turn would help student with logical thinking skill later on.

Ruihua Wang

The author mentioned "Many people with STEM degrees end up working in non-STEM fields, perhaps because employers see those credentials as a proxy for the skills they want" at the end of the article.

Personally, I couldn't be more agreed towards this sentence. Nonetheless, the opinion which is behind this sentence can not illustrate anything towards the gross idea of the entire article which should be "Math And Science Can't Take Priority Over History And Civics".

First of all, ending up with non-STEM works may be cause by numerous factors. This can not be a piece evidence supporting that "Math And Science Can't Take Priority Over History And Civics".

Plus, "employers see those credentials as a proxy for the skills they want" is decided by employing condition nowadays. It makes no sense to oppose it in this way.

Jingjing Li

I agree with Wexler's opinion. It is very important for people to know their country's history and geography. Because past events can teach us many valuable experiences. When we recognize the warnings, we can avoid or eliminate them.


I agree with Natalie Wexler that history, geography and civics such subjects are important for students to learn and use in the future life. On the other perspective, it cannot be denied that STEM education are also important to the next generation. In the article, the author said that “ninth-graders are already struggle to pass a required algebra course, STEM is likely to mean a lot of drilling in math.” Most of students do not like study, but they need to learn something for their future. It is also important to know the grounding information about calculus or physics. Also, there are students who like to study in STEM area, they are enjoying to study the calculus and chemistry such subjects. In this fast-speed developed society, people have multiple knowledge background is important and they have more advantages.

From all the examples above, I reckon that the authors’ perspective is to narrow. It is not going to be fine to students only take civics. The STEM education also as important as the History and geography.

Jinhua Mai

In this article,I agree school should put more focue on the history, geography, or civics, but that not means us should put less focus on STEM education and prioritize subjects.This is not help students learn more in the school.STEM covers a wide range of areas,it can give more knowledge, and use in student's life.I think all the subjects are important and have a meaning to build on


The article states that many students who studied STEM majors will end up doing none STEM jobs. This is true as a fact, but the reason they may have this job is based on the skills they learned in STEM classes. Just like what the author stated in the article that "it is true STEM classes can develop these skills", based on that, I believe that is why STEM education still should have priority over Humanity education. The author believes that STEM education is taking to much time in a school day, but her argument had also stated that STEM students could have a non-STEM job is properly because the employer needs their skills learned from a STEM class; In addition, having the priority to study STEM classes doesn't mean student will not study other classes, student still have the chance to learn "Chinese History" as a STEM student anyway. But still, STEM is still the primary choice of education path form most students and STEM jobs are clearly increasing in recent years.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

By signing up you agree to W. W. Norton’s
privacy policy and terms of use.

About They Say / I Blog

  • New readings posted monthly, on the same issues that are covered in “They Say / I Say” with Readings—and with a space where readers can comment, and join the conversation.

Follow us on Twitter to get updates about new posts and more! @NortonWrite

Become a Fan