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September 24, 2012


Kenny Olmstead

I agree completely that STEM literacy should be seen as important for everyone. I feel that there are two issues at work here. One is the lack of students actually going into STEM fields. The other is in a way a more subtle problem of showing non-STEM students (and professionals) that the skill-set learned through STEM subjects is applicable in seemingly unrelated fields.

It is this second problem that I find most interesting, as a non-STEM educated professional.

One way I think this can be accomplished in schools is to apply STEM style learning (or STEM tools) to what are seen as "non-STEM subjects." One brief example is sentiment analysis. This is a common way to analyze large bodies of text (usually related to social media) and involves the T and maybe the E. What if you had students in a decidedly non-STEM class like English use sentiment analysis tools? Instead of using it for Twitter, use it for Middlemarch.

Showing students that something as techy as sentiment analysis can be applied in a non-tech field to great results could show them the value of STEM style learning, even if they are going to be novelists some day. The same logic can apply to professionals, every office can be shown that the tools and concepts valued by STEM subjects can be applied virtually anywhere.

Tracy Carlin

This article definitely speaks to some work I have been doing at Georgetown. I graduated from college an English major, but my school required classes in the sciences and math for a more well-rounded education. I took calculus, astronomy and environmental science classes to fulfill my graduation requirements. The scientific method and the importance of research was drilled into me just as much as the importance of syntax and metaphor in literature. I still utilize those STEM skills to approach problems in my daily life.

What's scary is that some not only do not appreciate the importance of STEM, they actively discourage it. Worse, they are trying to make it a point of policy. Here's an article from teh Washington Post regarding the newest platofrm of the Texas GOP - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/texas-gop-rejects-critical-thinking-skills-really/2012/07/08/gJQAHNpFXW_blog.html

"Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

How can we innovate if we don't challenge fixed beliefs?

Brendan Kirwin

This is an excellent summary of why we are falling behind when it comes to innovation. Your point about the misconception of "STEM not being for me" is well taken. But I think one of the things to consider is that most schools in the US do not approach the curriculum from a multidisciplinary standpoint. We go through school with our subjects so siloed that we don't even comprehend how well things are connected. My advice, if students won't go to STEM, bring STEM to the students. Kids in music class could learn about the electronics of electric guitars and amplifiers. Art students could learn about the chemical processes involved in photography. There are all sorts of ways to connect different subjects back to STEM. It won't be enough to have more STEM courses, educators need to rethink how we teach from the ground up.

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