Home > Outreach, physics, schools > Dissing the ‘Opposition’

Dissing the ‘Opposition’

I give a number of talks and workshops etc to school kids of various ages. Often I am trying to promote the idea that they should take science further than they might have originally considered and often I am trying to promote the types of jobs and careers that those with science and technology qualifications can aspire too (I often find their knowledge on what they could do is woefully lacking). Today I was doing a ‘What is Physics?’ talk for the University’s “Discovering Degrees Days” which are aimed at promoting University for kids who come from backgrounds with little or no familial experience of Higher Education. We let them do a couple of little hand-on experiments, but before that I give them my spiel.

The thing I try and emphasise is that by pursuing science and engineering courses you cut yourself off from very few job opportunities – what I often find myself also doing is making comparisons between degree, or just generally school, subjects and assigning them a relative worth. So today I found myself saying if you have a physics degree you will be better placed in the job market than if you have an English degree. I hate myself when I say stuff like this, as I like to think of myself as being much more inclusive and try not to be dismissive of others interests (academics making snide remarks about other subject areas is a very slippery slope). You can have a much better career with an English degree than a Physics one, after all.

So I would like to apologise to anyone who ever listens to my talks and feels I am being mean to other subject areas – I am not. I genuinely believe that s STEM background makes you more employable in general than a non-STEM background. I especially want to apologise to the teachers who come to these events who often are not science teachers, and hear what I am sure sounds like undue bias.

Some school subjects are worth more in terms of University entrance than others, but I think we need to promote a balanced education, but really push students to excel in the areas they are good at, whatever that may be. Subjects shouldn’t really compete and I think the idea of increasingly interdisciplinary working, especially at school, is to be welcomed. Scotland’s new Curriculum for Excellence should hopefully promote this (although there are many challenges to overcome it seems). But just remember, I love Physics, but am quite partial to non-STEM like history and literature too!

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