GOOD

Does STEM Education Have a Branding Problem?

The acronym "STEM" may be confusing to many people not involved in science education. But does it really matter?


Does the term "STEM" make you think of a certain type of cell or maybe a plant structure or stopping the flow of something? How about science, technology, engineering, and math education? If you didn't answer the last option, then you may agree with the column Natalie Angier wrote this week in The New York Times.

Angier despises the STEM acronym, which she argues is "didactic and jargony," confusing, and far too granular (why bother calling out "technology" and "engineering," specifically?). She isn't alone. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who is active in the movement of bringing science education to a new generation of students, primarily girls, is in full agreement, arguing that it's too wonky for the general public.


It's true, it absolutely is wonky—and no kid is going to be to enthused about a STEM curriculum, if it ends up being marketed to them that way. But, at this moment, STEM, much like Race to the Top or other government spearheaded education efforts, is primarily happening at the policy and funding level—a place where annoying acronyms are the norm.

As Angier herself reports, one of the advantages of mentioning each of the four disciplines separately is that it encourages corporations, especially those from the tech and energy sector, to reach into their deep pockets on behalf of initiatives that galvanize interest in science and technology-related fields and study. It's probably just the sort of term that IBM glommed onto to create its new high school in partnership with CUNY. It was probably on nearly every PowerPoint slide that led to the creation of the Change the Equation organization, which Ride cofounded with the CEOs of Intel and Time Warner Cable, among others.

To grow the next generation of American scientists is going to take resources, exciting new programs, and a clear path to a company or industry that has a long future of innovation ahead of it. These are practical fields that will undergird the future of American life, and the companies are investing, in one sense, in their own survival by training a workforce that's capable of keeping them in business.

Provided that the word "STEM" doesn't make it into the classroom itself—but, rather, arrives in the form of new labs and eye-opening curriculums—I think we can suffer its over-itemization, it's possible propensity to confuse, and its inelegance. Practically speaking, if it's getting the powers that be—from corporations to the Obama administration—interested, it's doing its job.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user skeggy.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health