In the 1950s the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow—tired of hearing educated people express astonishment at the illiteracy of scientists—sometimes asked them to describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or to define mass. The response was usually silence. Snow claimed the disparate nature of the education of scientists and humanists had created two cultures.
Educators continue to confirm Snow’s observation: students tend overwhelmingly to choose either a predominantly scientific path of study or a humanistic one, and the division interferes with the exchange of ideas needed in the present age.
What generates this division? Why do some people shy away from math and science, and others from the humanities? What’s been done to overcome this schism and foster cross-fertilization of ideas?
Shelia Tobias will address these questions at the Arizona Senior Academy at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (June 16). Tobias is a widely known educator and author. She has written Overcoming Math Anxiety; They’re not Dumb, They’re Different; Breaking the Science Barrier; Rethinking Science as a Career; and Banishing Math Anxiety.
Supported by the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Research Corporation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, her work has made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Her early training—earning degrees at Harvard University (Radcliffe College) and Columbia University—was not in the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Science) but in history and politics.
From academic positions and consultantships at institutions and government agencies in this country and abroad, she has acquired an international reputation for novel approaches to the two-culture problem.
Tobias will describe her studies on not only why humanities-type people shy away from math and science, but also why science-oriented people shy away from the humanities. In a world that desperately needs both domains of study, her work has been welcomed.
Written by Fred Neidhardt, Academy Village Volunteer