Students-Teachers and the weird disinterest in STEM

Alas, I just read another article today about how students are disinterested in STEM.  Lockheed inadvertently gave more reason for being tuned out in their response.  Andrew Hacker has also made some serious arguments against STEM.  Any overworked teacher might sigh in relief after reading these because they appear to be off the hook as far as needing to know anything about STEM.

So what are they all missing?  The definition:  STEM isn’t just about 4-year Science, Technology, Engineering and Math degrees. Nor should it be defined by robot competitions, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, and space programs.  The STEM we need to be integrating is much more about the 4 C’s required to thrive in any 21st Century job market:  collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

We have little idea what jobs will look like in 20 years with respect to the specificities. However, the complexity of our society is increasingly requiring the 4 C’s.  Primary evidence:   the proliferation of Payday Loans and other scams. The 4 C’s are not only baselines for 21st Century jobs, they are baselines for economic survival.

My message to Lockheed would be this:  Stop talking about outer space and start talking about the 4 C’s.  Most of our students associate the space program with science fiction. Because they really are quite bright, they sense that they are not all going to be rocket scientists and that the road to becoming one is a whole lot of work.  When we do not convey a realistic picture of their futures, we turn them off to “STEM” completely.

Understanding the big picture for STEM is becoming a social justice issue.  Those who understand and aspire have all the socioeconomic advantages that go along with it. Those who do not understand, often set their bars low.  As teachers, we need to understand what is at stake and herald the call such that our students can wrap their minds around the relevance of STEM skills.  We also need to structure our class work in ways that develop those skills.  With Common Core State Standards, we have time in our curriculum to develop learning strategies that develop the 4 C’s.   We must not let Lockheed take the lead.

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