I’m a STEM advocate, but not for those reasons.
I don’t care about America's STEM- ready workforce shortage.
I don’t care about maintaining American leadership in the world.
I don’t care about competing with Asia.
There….. I said it.
With all of the things I don’t care about, what do I care about?
I care about the wellbeing of the planet along with everyone and everything on it; not just that of one particular species (humans) in one particular location (United States).
I have a mission, and building a STEM talent pipeline is not it. My mission for STEM Junction is to: Simplify STEM education so educators can use it to empower young people to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions that ensure the wellbeing of the planet and ALL its inhabitants. Granted, a mission statement should be concise, memorable, and easy to repeat, but I’m working on that!
Let’s face it….not all students will go on to have STEM careers. And I’m okay with that. A number of my past students are now scientists and technologists. Some of them have chosen STEM careers just because I was the one who inspired them to do so. But I believe every student benefits from STEM education, not just those who will go on to be scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.
The goal of U.S. K-12 science education, which I wrote about in Robinson’s Weblog #008: What’s the Big Idea? Part Two: The Big Ideas about Science Education (The Vision and Goal of the Framework), is articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), and reflected in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Comments about the importance of STEM education for everyone, not just the ones who decide to pursue STEM careers, appear throughout the Framework document. This excerpt, quoted from the very first page after the summary says:
Many recent calls for improvements in K-12 science education have focused on the need for science and engineering professionals to keep the United States competitive in the international arena. Although there is little doubt that this need is genuine, a compelling case can also be made that understanding science and engineering, now more than ever, is essential for every American citizen.
It goes on to say:
Science, engineering, and the technologies they influence permeate every aspect of modern life. Indeed, some knowledge of science and engineering is required to engage with the major public policy issues of today as well as to make informed everyday decisions, such as selecting among alternative medical treatments or determining how to invest public funds for water supply options. In addition, understanding science and the extraordinary insights it has produced can be meaningful and relevant on a personal level, opening new worlds to explore and offering lifelong opportunities for enriching people’s lives. In these contexts, learning science is important for everyone, even those who eventually choose careers in fields other than science or engineering.
In Robinson’s Weblog #017: What’s the Point? Part Three: To Science Content and Beyond, I wrote that as science educators, of course we want to give our students an understanding of the natural world, but the goal of science education and all academic subject areas goes beyond increasing students’ knowledge and understanding to empowering them to use their learnings to make informed decisions on things that matter outside of and beyond school.
No, I’m not concerned about America’s “STEM crisis”. While various entities have different reasons for promoting STEM education, my value as an educator goes beyond maintaining American leadership and competing with Asia. My interest is in the potential of STEM Education to empower our young people to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions that ensure the wellbeing of the planet and ALL its inhabitants.