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

Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.



It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture