What is STE(A)M?
Science and technology education picks up steam
by David Wheeler for The Enterprise
Posted May 27, 2013 @ 09:59 PM
One of the hottest topics in education today is STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math. Everywhere I look, there are grants, professional development opportunities and symposiums designed to help schools teach more math and science. And plenty of folks are (correctly) looking to vocational schools to help encourage these much-needed skill sets.
As important as STEM skills are, I can't help but think that it's becoming a lopsided conversation. Of course we need more doctors and computer scientists. But we need more creative people too, like designers and wordsmiths, the very people who help us utilize and understand technology. Where would the iPhone be without its sleek design? How would we process today's avalanche of information in a quick and reliable manner without journalists, teachers and writers to help us?
Yet sadly, these are some of the lowest paying professions around. Teachers start at less than $40k annually in many places. Entry-level journalists are paid even less. And writers, as everyone knows, pretty much start out working for free these days.
Why, given our instant access to information and all our technological advancements are these “less-technical” skills so undervalued in our society? In Finland, a country that consistently ranks among the best-educated in the world, teacher candidates are culled from the top 10% of college applicants. Yet here in the United States, it is decidedly less difficult to gain entry to an educator preparation program.
One reason for this lopsidedness is obvious: people in the sciences directly contribute to the economy, whereas teachers and creative types do so more indirectly. David Karp, founder of Tumblr, created 175 jobs and recently sold his company to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. It’s easy to measure the economic impact of this accomplishment. It’s harder to assess the impact of whoever it was that helped Karp and his team learn programming code or create attractive consumer-friendly designs. Still, there’s a lot of truth to the saying that teaching is the profession that creates all other professions.
At the groundbreaking ceremony for our school renovation project last year, state Treasurer Steve Grossman said something that’s stuck with me. Instead of calling for STEM skills, he said we should be calling for “STEAM skills”, meaning science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.” He attributed the addition of “the arts” to his wife, although I’ve heard it from other people as well.
This makes perfect sense to me. We need to do a better job of incorporating creative thought into the sciences. We also need to do a better job recognizing the crucial role our teachers and schools play in shaping the economy of the future. It’s time to expand the STEM conversation to focus on how we interpret and use scientific knowledge instead of solely on how we create it.
Read more: DAVID WHEELER: Science and technology education picks up steam - Mansfield, MA - Mansfield News http://www.wickedlocal.com/mansfield/topstories/x776196404/DAVID-WHEELER-Science-and-technology-education-picks-up-steam#ixzz2UnJlOzGQ
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Dave Wheeler is principal of Southeastern Regional Vocational-Technical High School in Easton. His views are not necessarily those of the Southeastern School District. You can read previous columns or purchase his book, "Are We Immortal Yet?" at www.davewheeleronline.com. All proceeds are donated to the Southeastern Community Service Fund to help students and families in need. Write a letter to the editor, or leave a comment on the column.