Council of Ontario Universities – University Success Stories

Why STEM should care about the humanities

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Toronto, April 16, 2013—

Kira Hamman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

One need not look far these days to find people skeptical (at best) about the value of higher education. Most of these people particularly question the value of a liberal-arts education, which they view as outdated and elitist. Claiming economic pragmatism, they seek the curtailment or even outright elimination of arts and humanities programs. Liberal arts, they say, are a luxury we can no longer afford, because students who study the liberal arts do not develop the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. This is an absurd and entirely unsubstantiated claim that I will not bother to debunk here (for an excellent takedown of this position, see Brian Rosenberg’s January 30 article in the Huffington Post). Still, absurd though it is, those of us in the sciences may think to let the humanities fight their own corner. What does this have to do with us? we may well ask.

And it’s true: You never hear politicians questioning the value of STEM education. Sure, students may complain about the chemistry class they’re required to take, and everyone loves to hate developmental math, but on a fundamental level most people accept that STEM courses belong in the undergraduate curriculum. People in mathematics, my discipline, are fond of complaining about teaching so-called service courses, but the truth is that we have a kind of job security our colleagues in the humanities could envy. Even the most hardcore of anti-intellectual politicians does not dispute the utility of mathematics, or the necessity of both teaching and learning it. So we’re safe, right? Why should we stick our necks out protecting drama, or music, or women’s studies? Three reasons.

via Council of Ontario Universities – University Success Stories.

Why has climate legislation failed? An interview with Theda Skocpol.

Why has climate legislation failed? An interview with Theda Skocpol..

Posted by Brad Plumer on January 16, 2013 at 10:02 am

One of Skocpol’s key insights is that health care reformers spent much of their time in the run-up to Obama’s election studying past legislative failures and seeing what they could learn from them. Environmentalists, meanwhile, assumed they could build on previous successes and continue attracting Republican support. As a result, the climate movement was utterly unprepared for the GOP’s sharp turn against cap-and-trade in 2008.

It’s a complex analysis worth reading in full, but it’s also 140 pages. So, to discuss some of its main points, I called Skocpol to talk about why the cap-and-trade push failed—and whether climate legislation can ever be viable again. Following is our interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Brad Plumer: You spend a lot of time dissecting the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the big collaboration between greens and businesses to push for a cap-and-trade bill that could win support from Republicans. It wasn’t a crazy strategy—cap-and-trade had picked up a fair bit of bipartisan support between 2003 and 2007. So why did it ultimately fail?

Study finds unsafe mercury levels in 84 percent of all fish – CBS News

Study finds unsafe mercury levels in 84 percent of all fish – CBS News.

A new study from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine found that 84 percent of fish have unsafe levels of mercury. That poses a health risk for humans, exceeding the guidelines for eating certain kinds of fish more than once a month.

The report, a collaboration between IPEN and Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), highlights the urgent need for an overall reduction in mercury emissions when government delegates convene next week in Geneva in their final negotiating session to establish an international mercury treaty – the first global treaty on the environment in more than a decade by the United Nations Environment Programme.