One of my pet peeves... Taught what at the graduate level?
http://seeingmath.concord.org/people_behind_seeingmath.html#advisory "Elizabeth Stage is Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley. A former middle school mathematics and science teacher who has also taught at the graduate level, she has conducted research, program evaluation, and curriculum development; led professional development programs; and worked on state and national standards and assessments in mathematics and science. Throughout these activities, she has been guided by a vision of high quality mathematics and science education for all students."
If you want to talk about bolstering science and math education in this country, Ill gladly break out my virtual pompoms and go rah. Who wouldnt? Our nations economy, global allure and future tense all depend on the strength of its scientific spine.
But mention the odious and increasingly pervasive term STEM education, and instead of cheerleading gear, I reach for my ... pistil. In my disgruntlement, I am not alone.
For readers who heretofore have been spared exposure to this little concatenation of capital letters, or who have, quite understandably, misconstrued its meaning, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, supposedly the major food groups of a comprehensive science education.
Aficionados pronounce STEM exactly as youd imagine like the plant part, like the cell type, like what you do to a tide and I wish I could do to this trend, but its probably too late. Go to any convention, Congressional hearing or science foundation bagel chat on the ever ominous theme of Science in the Classroom, and why cant our students be more like Singapores when they take international tests anyway? and youll hear little about how to teach trigonometry or afford all those Popsicle sticks needed for the eighth-grade bridge-building competition, but youll be pelted by references to STEM.
<http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf>A new report from the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology offers many worthy ideas for improving science education, like creating a master corps of the nations finest science teachers who would in turn train others; but the STEM word keeps thudding up its pages like so many gristle nubs in a turkey burger. Its greasy-peasy: collapse down education, and youve got a buzz phrase to rival phys ed.
The term also sounds didactic and jargony, which is why Sally Ride, the former astronaut who now travels the country promoting the glories of science education to girls and other interested parties, said she consciously avoids it.
Dr. Rides instincts are well grounded. According to survey results released last month by the nonprofit group <http://www.eiconline.org/>Entertainment Industries Council, when some 5,000 participants were asked whether they understood the term STEM education, 86 percent said no. They said it made them think of stem cells, branches, leaves and broccoli stems, said Brian Dyak, the groups president. I have no clue on that last one. Clearly, he added, we have a branding issue here.
But is it a brand worth pitching? Some critics argue that the term is unnecessary and potentially self-defeating. Whats wrong with a simple science education, or if need be, science and math education? Whats with all the discipline call-outs that demanded the invention of an acronym?
Dr. Stage, a mathematician by training, thinks its a false distinction to silo out the different disciplines, and would much prefer to focus on what the fields have in common, like problem-solving, arguing from evidence and reconciling conflicting views. Thats what we should have in the bulls-eye of our target, she said.
I remember it being made explicit that science encompassed more than straight-up science, and you started hearing requests to include mention of math, technology and engineering, Dr. Stage said.
Pragmatism and economics are also part of the equation. As government has turned ever more avidly to industry to help pay for expensive improvements in the science classroom, the need to emphasize the link between a well-rounded science education and tomorrows techie work force has grown accordingly. A lot of corporations are now talking to each other about what theyre doing in STEM education, said Dr. Stage, and those corporations include engineering and computer heavyweights like Exxon Mobil, Intel and Hewlett-Packard.
Dr. Lander argues that that there is a basic rightness to the itemizing spirit behind STEM. Science is discovering the laws of the natural world, and mathematics isnt that, its logical, deductive truth, and its experiments dont have error bars, he said. And when you get to technology and engineering, its the constructed world, and thats different than the discovered one. Hed like a better term than the current one, but said hes tried all four factorial permutations of the letters, and the alternatives are either unpronounceable or already claimed by a baseball team. Dr. Ride points out that an earlier version of the official acronym was, in fact, SMET, and thankfully weve moved away from that, she said.
Yet others dont frame the word science so narrowly, as the province of the given rather than of the forged. Science has always encompassed the applied and the basic, and the impulses to explore and to invent have always been linked. <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/galileo_galilei/index.html?inline=nyt-per>Galileo built a telescope and then trained it on the sky. Advances in technology illuminate realms beyond our born senses, and those insights in turn yield better scientific toys. Engineers use math and physics and the scientific mind-set in everything they design; and those who dont, please let us know, so we can fly someone elses airplane and not cross your bridge when we come to it. Whatever happened to the need for interdisciplinary thinking? Why promote a brand that codifies atomization?
Besides, acronyms encourage rampant me-tooism. Mr. Dyak said that some have lobbied for the addition of medicine to the scholastic program, complete with a second M. Its called STEM squared, he said. Even the arts are hankering for an orthographic position, he added.
STEAM education: great books, labs and motherboards, and free rug cleaning, too.