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STEM Knowledge Plus Context Equals Action
Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver, Ph.D.
I thought I would continue on a “well rounded” theme and how it adds two critical aspects to STEM. One is determining the validity of the overpowering stream of “facts” that STEM sources deliver including the social sciences. The other is knowledge about humanity and civilization.
Access to data, statistics and information has grown exponentially. Instead of just researching journals or library archives, or chatting with experts there is a cornucopia of Info-Tech sources, some with high validity, and some fraudulent driven by hidden agendas.
I just received a $4.00 copy from ABE of the 1954 book “How to Lie with Statistics.” Every STEM student in my era read this short, amusing book. It covers data graphing manipulations, sampling bias and choice of what average to use to bend truth. Quotes include “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Disraeli, and “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us in trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so.” Artemus Ward. Understanding the wrong way is an effective means to learn the right way to use knowledge.
Being a “true believe” is risky. Blindly following the mandates of your circle of friends, teachers, community or political party is less than desirable. This is where critical thinking comes into play. But critical thinking needs a broad and deep context that crosses many boundaries.
Context resides in both humanity and civilization that can be found in historical, political, religious, humorous, scientific and philosophical literature both fictional and fact. Your context is developed within the instincts, arts, skills, relationships, beliefs, and mind-sets molded by your own life experiences.
With knowledge founded on valid data and context molded within your life there is one more attribute to being a well-rounded person … action. That is making decisions and then taking action – every way and every day.
Ref: David Brooks, “The Problem of Pragmatism,” NY Times, 10/3/2014