Students who garner high-tech skills may still get undercut by people halfway around the world who are willing to do the same work for one-fifth of the salary. The surest way to compete is to offer something the Chinese and Indians (and Vietnamese, Singaporeans, etc.) cannot -- technical skills are not enough.
Pragmatic folks naturally seek direct links from skill to result, such as engineers using their technical knowledge to keep planes aloft and bridges from buckling. But what about Abraham Lincoln educating himself via Shakespeare, the Bible and other great literary works? Alan Greenspan's degrees are in economics but he plays a mean jazz saxophone. Indeed, many of today's foremost (and wealthiest) entrepreneurs, people like Warren Buffett, studied economics -- not a STEM subject -- in college. Adam Smith studied moral philosophy.
Abandoning the liberal arts in the name of STEM alone also risks widening social divides and deepening domestic inequities. The well-to-do who understand the value of liberal learning may be the only ones able to purchase it for their children. Top private schools and a few suburban systems will stick with education broadly defined, as will elite colleges. Rich kids will study philosophy and art, music and history, while their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets. The lucky few will spawn the next generation of tycoons, political leaders, inventors, authors, artists and entrepreneurs. The less lucky masses will see narrower opportunities. Some will find no opportunities at all, which frustration will tempt them to prey upon the fortunate, who in turn will retreat into gated communities, exclusive clubs, and private this-and-that' s, thereby widening domestic rifts and worsening our prospects for social cohesion and civility