Around the Apocalyptic Web: Why thinkpieces on STEM education are dangerous and more

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STEM as a curriculumn based on students being educated in Science , technology , engineering and mathematics is of great importance since it promotes discovery of most of the solutions to the problems that affects mankind. Such discoveries may be discovery of medicine for various diseases such as AIDS pandemic. On the other hand relying only on stem education for students is not justifiable since some fields such as law and entertainment are also very important to mankind since they are inseparable to our daily lives.

By Michael George… (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

As a long time science educator and reseacher I have seen various efforts over the years to "invigorate" science and engineering through educational iniatives. The "new" STEM focus actually emerges originally from an political agenda and not from educators, though many educators have taken up the "chant" for this "holy grail". It is very narrow in it's intent, the very thing that pushes learners away from engaging with it. President Bush Junior coined the term during his administration I suspect with the notion that more people in science and engineering will some how "boost" economic fortunes of America and somehow secure America's future in terms of security and military.
Paul Craig Roberts (one of Regan's economists and father of "Reganomics", also with a huge list of awards and accomplishements to his name) notes, the whole call for more STEM trained people is somewhat disingenuous.

To quote him:
"Integrity is so lacking in America that the shortage myth [of scientists and engineers] serves the short-term financial interests of universities, funding agencies, employers, and immigration attorneys at the expense of American students, whose economic prospects are harmed by their naive pursuit of professions in which their prospects are dim. Initially it was blue-collar factory workers who were abandoned by US corporations and politicians. Now it is white-collar employees and Americans trained in science and technology."
(The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West)

He mentions this because at the same time there is this call for STEM able people/professions and to enourage and train such people, the USA is if fact importing large numbers of out of country professionals or employing them where they are (overseas) and USA professionals are not finding employment.

The call for more STEM because there is a lack of it is in various ways hypocritical, really.

If one really wants to encourage more youth to seek out such avenues, there has to a great deal more openness in curricula, much more diversity in how students are engaged with science and more opportunity for learners to work with and experience professionals, so that learners will stop seeing people engaged in "STEM" as solitary, nerdy, anti-social beings who toil away endlessly in lab or shop, never to see the day of light.
I know that is not the case, but many of the youth I talk with have exactly that notion. Honestly many do.

The lack of emotional attachment and identification with science as part of a youth/person's life directly and as place to experience creativity and problem solving is a major stumbling block that "promoting" "STEM" won't overcome. This is likely to be compounded by those with influence (politicians/business) who will want more tests and accountability make sure they are getting their monies worth.

Having been in science education in schools and as a univ. prof for almost 40 years now...all the talk of student centred learning, putting students first, etc..etc.. is pretty vacuous for the most part. But if it were really acted upon, there would be less of problem in terms of having persons choose "STEM" pathways.