Since many colleges and universities label these subjects the "mathematical sciences," why not just call these the mathematical sciences? Or maybe we can call them the mathematical and technological sciences for those who might not think of engineering and computer science and other technology-related fields as mathematical sciences. These wouldn't have very good acronyms, but at least these names are less confusing to the public. The name can be an acronym but does not have to be.
Kirby's proposed alternatives are also worth considering.
I can understand the public being confused about the term "STEM education" because if it had not been for my participation in online discussions about education, I would not know what "STEM education" means.
On 10/5/2010 at 11:33 am, Wayne Bishop wrote:
> 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." > > > http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/science/05angier.ht > ml?_r=1&ref=education&pagewanted=print > <http://www.nytimes.com/> > The New York Times > > October 4, 2010 > > > STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers > > > > By > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/p > eople/a/natalie_angier/index.html?inline=nyt-per>NATAL > IE > ANGIER > > 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/microsi > tes/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. > > As even those who use the term admit, it is > deeply, serio-comically flawed. For starters, it > is opaque and confusing. Everybody who knows > what it means knows what it means, and everybody > else doesnt, said Eric Lander, co-chairman of > the presidents advisory council and head of the > Broad Institute of the > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/o > rganizations/m/massachusetts_institute_of_technology/i > ndex.html?inline=nyt-org>Massachusetts > Institute of Technology and > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/o > rganizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=ny > t-org>Harvard > University. When he first heard the term, he > figured it was a too-cute reference to botany. I > thought, stem education? What about flower > education? he said. > > These days, given the publics fixation on > embryonic > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasescon > ditionsandhealthtopics/stemcells/index.html?inline=nyt > -classifier>stem > cells progenitor cells that give rise to all > the different tissues of the body the potential > for confusion is even worse. People hear about > STEM education, and they think some harm has come > to an embryo in the process, Dr. Lander said. > > 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. > > With my > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/o > rganizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administ > ration/index.html?inline=nyt-org>NASA > heritage, Im perfectly capable of speaking > entirely in acronyms, including the verbs, she > said. But this is not very helpful when talking to > the public. > > 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? > > A program officer from a foundation recently > asked me, Is the work youre doing STEM > education or science education? said Elizabeth > Stage, the director of the Lawrence Hall of > Science at the > <http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopic > s/organizations/u/university_of_california/index.html? > inline=nyt-org>University > of California, Berkeley. I drew him a Venn > diagram, showing him whats central about science > and how that overlaps with technology, engineering > and math. > > 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. > > The decision to include engineering and > technology in the education messaging dates > roughly to the 1990s, when the > <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/o > rganizations/n/national_science_foundation/index.html? > inline=nyt-org>National > Science Foundation and other government agencies > began trying to draw up national standards for > science education, specifying what students in > kindergarten through 12th grade should know by the > end of every school year. > > 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/p > eople/g/galileo_galilei/index.html?inline=nyt-per>Gali > leo > 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.