Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pushing Too Hard for STEM

Submitted to the Washington Post, May 19, 2016.

"Obama wants to hear what children have to say about science education,"(May 19) as part of a White House effort to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education The assumption behind all this is the belief that there is a serious shortage of science and technology experts.
There isn't.  Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening. Recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb. 
Also, we don't know what our needs will be by the time today's elementary school children finish school.  As Yogi Berra put it, "It is hard to predict, especially about the future."
It is a mistake to shove young people into math and science careers when it isn't right for them. It makes more sense to help students develop their own talents and interests,to help them find what they like and are good at, and help them get better at it.
The world needs a wide variety of  talents: Distinguished psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues explain: "If we were all more or less alike, humans would grow into narrowly specialized organisms. It would be difficult for us to adapt to changing conditions ..."

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN:
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12)
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Race of Scientific Talent. Princeton.
Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013.

Diversity: Csikszentmihalyi, M. Rathunde, K. & Whalen, S. (1993). Talented teenagers: The roots of success and failure. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  Quote on page 8.

Stephen Krashen was a student in the first AP calculus class taught in the United States, uses math in his work, and loves all aspects of science and math. But he believes that STEM isn't for everybody, and is grateful that President Obama decided to study law, rather than mechanical engineering or chemistry.


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