Safe From Science?
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 1, 2013 00:11
The acronym SFS has earned itself a meaning besides School of Foreign Service: safe from science. While some students enjoy the respite from chemistry and biology, it is time for the school to move forward on proposals to integrate science into its core curriculum.
Few would doubt that science and technology are beneficial to studying international affairs. Although politics are central to global issues like climate change, nuclear proliferation and international trade, some background in science is also critical to a comprehensive understanding of global issues. Indeed, this is exactly why the Science, Technology and International Affairs major exists.
However, the school’s heavy 17-course core curriculum — which introduces students to its history, economics and politics majors — notably excludes science. Instead, it relies on a notoriously tough gateway course required for STIA majors to introduce them to the science component of the curriculum. This means that some SFS students who might otherwise choose STIA are deterred from this academic path and those who don’t actively seek out elective science courses lack any exposure to the countless connections between science and international relations.
Of course, incorporating this requirement would present a host of difficulties. The SFS core is already stringent and leaves students with little wiggle room for electives or certificates. To address that, a science class should replace one of the existing requirements. Perhaps reducing the number of required economics or history classes would solve the problem, though this cut would likely stir conflict within these departments, which would be reluctant to see lower enrollment in their disciplines.
It’s important to note that instead of modeling a traditional science class, taught by the biology, physics, chemistry or computer science departments, for instance, the new science course should innovatively combine scientific disciplines and directly apply them to world affairs from the past and present.
SFS students who take pride in being safe from science are in danger of missing a valuable chance to broaden their education. We cannot strive to be global citizens seeking solutions to world problems without knowledge of science — a fact that the SFS should intuitively be the first to appreciate.