STS in the Liberal Arts and Beyond

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I taking part in a workshop at Vassar College, “Science and Technology Studies (STS) in the Liberal Arts,” on the role, if any, of STS in an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum.1

The program is shaping up nicely. Topics include:

  • Branching Out: STS and Other Multidisciplinary Fields
  • Partnerships and Tensions: Exploring Relations between STS and the Sciences
  • Pedagogical Enhancements: New Teaching Methods for STS
  • So, What’s New?: Incorporating the Cutting-edge into Our Teaching and Scholarship
  • Beyond the Blackboard: Educational Technologies in the STS Classroom
  • Outside the Classroom: Non-Curricular Involvement of STS in College Life
  • Off-Campus Opportunities: Connecting to Businesses, Agencies, NGOs
  • Faced with Intellectual Diversity: Tailoring STS Content to Students’ Interests
  • Diverse Students: Globalism and Multiculturalism in the STS Classroom

I am particularly interested in “Partnerships and Tensions” and “Off-Campus Opportunities.”

I am hopeful that we will also be able to talk about what we think holds the STS curriculum together or gives it some coherence. In a comment on my previous post, Joe Martin suggested:

… what are the core competencies of an STS graduate? How do they differ from those of other liberal arts/interdisciplinary majors? How can STS strive to confer the type of disciplinary competence that traditional liberal arts majors offer? Given the diverse and fuzzy-bordered nature of STS as a field, I suspect that answers to questions like these will be highly local and it might be worthwhile to expose and map those differences.

I think these are important questions, complicated by the fact that at many liberal arts institutions STS is not a degree or minor program. STS course work is interleaved into the students’ regular major. Here at Haverford, history majors can select “History of Science” as one of their areas of concentration. Despite some promising efforts a few years back, an STS minor never gained any real traction. Other minors and concentrations often want a history of science or STS component—e.g., Health and Society or Environmental Studies—but again, STS is subordinated to the real focus of the program.

Perhaps that makes Joe’s questions all the more important. What is it that STS brings to the table that other disciplines and majors don’t? What sort of identity—disciplinary or curricular or ideological or pedagogical—does STS have?

If you have suggestions or thoughts, please email them to me or, better yet, write a post at your blog and link back so I am alerted to your post.

1 I am not distinguishing between STS and History of Science. There are many heated debates about the nature of these two things and their proper goals and objects of study and their political agendas. I am not engaging with those debates here.

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