Date of Award

Spring 2015

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Dr. Eric Smaw

Second Advisor

Dr. Ryan Musgrave


Current American rhetoric pushes a purely STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum under societal pressure to pull funds from liberal arts programs and train workers as cheaply and quickly as possible. When this happens, higher education is no longer a means of learning and acquiring the tools for adaptability, ethic responsibility, and civic courage, but a commodity, bought and sold for immediate employment. While advocates for STEM-focused education aim to boost the nation’s economic productivity and global competitiveness, many worry that neglecting the arts and humanities will lead to a one-sided education that fails our culture and society by creating replaceable drones, rather than developing minds, robbing a generation of innovators. The following thesis research demonstrates that STEM-only curricular models eliminate critical evaluation of the human condition, and with it, the ability to clearly define ethical considerations as new technology continues to challenge our existing moral boundaries. A pragmatic liberal arts approach to higher education, which integrates the liberal arts with the STEM disciplines to a holistic diversified curriculum, will more effectively serve the public interest than the false dichotomization of the liberal arts and STEM programs, which lead to increased privatization of higher education. Considering the kind of students, colleges, and society we wish to develop, I make the case that one useful solution to the present-day context and stalemated debates is to revive an idea dear to the classical American pragmatists: education as an essential public good for a robust democracy.

Rights Holder

Emilie Mears