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
AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less
Health