The Big Read

    Is our STEM obsession hurting innovation?

    Illustration: John Hemminger
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    Jack Ma took the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland early this year with a cautionary message about the future of work. “Education is a big challenge now,” he said. “If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years [from now] we’ll be in trouble.”

    The Alibaba co-founder was not talking about teaching kids to code. Rather, he was referring to the need to teach school-aged children art, music and sports; empathy and critical thinking. “Everything we teach our kids should be different from machines,” he said.

    The stance is in distinct contrast to the one touted by Canada’s prime minister. Justin Trudeau solidified his reputation as a STEM evangelist soon after his election when he delivered an impromptu explanation of quantum computing during a funding announcement at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The act earned him a standing ovation and credibility among the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) community.

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