It may be, as Sen. Howard Stephenson says, that there aren't enough Utah students being trained in science, technology, engineering and math. But the solution is not to denigrate the value of university degrees in other areas, as Stephenson did, calling them "degrees to nowhere."
A better answer would be to encourage more of Utah's students who have ability and interest in the STEM courses to pursue degrees in those fields, especially young women and minority students of both sexes.
Because no matter how he tries to disparage the humanities and social sciences, those departments produce many well-rounded, intellectually stimulated college graduates who become successful in business, communications, research, education, law, health and medicine. And those people may simply be unsuited for jobs as scientists. Not everyone fits the same mold.
An undergraduate degree in history, philosophy, psychology (Stephenson's own degree), English or literature can prepare a student not just for graduate degrees but for life. And that's no small thing.
However, we agree with Stephenson that Utah needs more engineers, mathematicians, technology experts and scientists, and the need is likely to grow. It's unfortunate, then, when Utah needs more of such students, that Stephenson's colleague, Sen. Margaret Dayton, is busy promoting an amendment to Utah's Constitution that would prohibit programs to encourage more girls, young women and students of ethnic minorities to pursue degrees in the STEM departments.
Dayton's bill would end any kind of preferential treatment in government hiring and school recruitment. Government agencies could no longer try to hire women or minority applicants, and schools could no longer recruit young women and minority students to enroll in STEM courses. Science and math programs in public schools to increase participation in STEM courses likely would be a thing of the past.
Right now, math and science departments at state universities struggle to get young women and minority students into their programs. And there just aren't enough white males to fill all the jobs that Stephenson is worried about. Far too many women and Utahns of color are working in minimum-wage jobs where their talents are wasted, for lack of education.
We agree with Stephenson that students in high school and college need better information about opportunities in various educational fields students of all backgrounds and both genders.