As the education system continues to evolve, the emphasis on STEM education must also evolve. The focus in the early stages of STEM education has been simply throwing money at the development of STEM education amongst teachers and students. Seemingly saying, “Holy crap, we’ll pay you a lot of money if you’re a STEM major,” the results have been disappointing.
Instead of trying to appeal to an adolescent’s future pocketbook, why not try and teach the value and intrigue of science. It was not the appeal of financial stability that drew a whole generation of post war students to be NASA engineers, but the divine fascination with exploring space through the images of the Apollo missions to the moon. There is inherently a civic argument to the push for scientists in the 1950’s and 60’s as a way to compete with the USSR, so why do we insist on such a dry and base appeal now.
With the millennial generation, over 70% report wanting a job that made a difference. The recent PBS report on Science education needing a makeover, argues that we need to make the explicit case to students of how science education makes a difference for the lives of people:
While the economic argument for doing a better job preparing American students with 21st century skills in STEM has been made time and time again, teaching students what philosopher John Dewey called “the scientific habit of the mind,” also has broader benefits for society. The more students are able to connect the dots between scientific processes and science’s impact on society, the more informed their political decisions will be as adult citizens.
Let’s stop approaching students as if they are subcontractors and approach them as human beings. The civic argument for scientific literacy and STEM education is an important one. Let’s make that argument and move the needle on STEM graduates.
Matt Impink is a former US History Teacher and Education Policy Advocate. He is currently a Graduate Student at IU’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) in Indianapolis and curates the Civic Blog. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @mrimpink.