Partial STEM Ahead

In my previous post, I commented on how the push to include more variety into STEM education leads to a watering down of the initiative. If you make everything a priority, then nothing is a priority (The Incredibles is applicable again).

But now I want to look at another aspect of the STEM initiative: will it be effective?

The usual comparison is to the US back in the 1960s when the government responded to the president’s vow to put a man on the moon (or sound stage) in that decade. Thus began a STEM-like push.

The problem with that comparison is that it is backwards. The government in the 1960s didn’t push for schools to promote STEM. Rather, the government provided a project (fly to the moon) that got everyone interested. People wanted to be a part of it, so they saw what was needed and did what they could. Kids in school saw pictures of people working at NASA and had something to aspire to. They also saw clips on TV of rocket launches and were captivated. This was all new and exciting and promoted itself.

What is new these days? What can captivate the nation? What will catch kids’ attention and inspire them for their future?

That was meant more as a rhetorical question. I think we as a society have passed that point of national pride and interest. I don’t know that we can duplicate that effort again.

So in the 1960s, we had an exciting long-term program that kids could look forward to being a part of, if they went a certain direction in their schooling.

And now, we have schools trying to point kids in a direction and the kids don’t necessarily know why, or care. Yes, the programs might be fun, but what is driving the kids to continue through college?

I maintain that kids who like that kind of stuff will stay in it, but they would have already been heading that way. I don’t know that the STEM push today will have much of a long-term effect. People don’t have a higher purpose for their schooling now like they did back then. “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up!” That can be inspiring, or it can be ambiguous. Without an overall goal, there’s nothing to guide the ambiguity.

If the government (or industries) wants more college graduates in a certain field, you know how to get them? Good job offers. It’s like they got the supply and demand equation backwards. The STEM push is to increase the supply of STEMmy people, but what’s the demand? Some vague answer such as “The United States is behind most other countries when it comes to science and math knowledge.”

That is rather uninspiring.

My response to that vague answer is: yes, but we’re still the best country in the world, so what’s the problem?

If you want to increase the supply, then provide the demand. Want more math teachers in the high schools? Double their salaries and see what happens. I bet people will magically become more interested in being math teachers.

To throw an old saying in here: the STEM people are trying to lead horses to water. But the horses aren’t thirsty.

Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty.

1 Samuel 20:18

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This little article thingy was written by Some Guy sometime around 6:58 am and has been carefully placed in the Technical category.

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