Role of science in liberal arts education for the students of 21st century
The role of professors and teachers in universities and schools is to inculcate in their students an analytical spirit and an ability to solve problems. Successful mentoring should enable the students to analyze a situation, opt for a suitable course of action to tackle the problem in hand and advocate for their choice. Analyzing complex situations is often considered to be a domain for the humanities discipline, since it is often argued that science tends to oversimplify things, reducing everything down to dead-beat numbers and equations. However, rigorous and controlled experiments coupled with careful observation can make an overwhelmingly difficult problem manageable. Thus, science is an integral component of liberal arts education since it encourages students explore natural phenomenon around them, think about ways in which the world works, devise experiments to test hypotheses and explain the results in technical jargon to their peers as well as in wider terms to laymen. It is the latter stage, i.e., explaining science to the lay audience which requires effective communication skills, which require a strong background in writing and connecting with the audience.
Furthermore, dealing with a real-world problem requires a certain level of comfort and knowledge of historical and cultural backgrounds along with empathy for others. Therefore, the next generation of administrators, policy makers, educators, scientists and executives need to navigate a wide variety of fields before embarking on decision-making in order to avoid aggravating problems. As global citizens of the “information age”, we have already received a wake-up call of what awaits us in the future in the form of the CoVID-19 pandemic as well as protests and demonstrations which have arisen due to centuries of deep seated social and racial inequality. The sudden species jump of the SARS-Cov2 virus into humans have likely resulted from indiscriminate deforestation and habitat destruction. In the latter half of the 21st century, humanity will be further confronted by several challenges such as - climate change, lack of effective drugs to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, effective regulations for genome editing and gene therapy, novel pandemics, food and clean water scarcity in third world countries as well as developing nations. Thus, we can no longer overlook the importance of effective science communication amongst the general public and legislative bodies. Hence, as an educator and scientist I would like to emphasize the need for a holistic education to meet the changing needs of the society in the near future.