Comment: Feedback Physics World  March 2018

Art for art’s sake

In response to Paul Axelrod’s Forum article “Why the arts matter” (January 2018) in which he warns against the dangers of ignoring the arts and the social sciences, in favour of only promoting STEM subjects.


Axelrod makes many very interesting and valid points that deserve to be widely discussed and debated. An important implication that he failed to observe though, is that university students who complete a STEM programme without being required to take any courses in the humanities and social sciences have not received a complete educational experience; something which should not be allowed to happen at any institution. Universities should produce well-balanced graduates who are not only competent in their major field of study, but are also familiar with other areas of intellectual inquiry.

Universities should produce well-balanced graduates who are also familiar with other areas of intellectual inquiry

Institutions involved in only STEM programmes at all levels are easier for governments to create and control. For example, China has superb pure and applied science institutions of advanced study which are, in reality, part of the civil service for a totalitarian government. It is only in democracies where independent institutions exist, with strong programmes in the humanities, arts and sciences, and government policies and their alternatives can be freely evaluated, studied and debated free from political interference.

Graduates should be capable of recognizing and analysing current social, economic and technical problems and changes and relating them to what has occurred in the past and be motivated to play an active role in society.

Harvey A Buckmaster

Victoria, BC, Canada