Is the focus on STEM just another educational pendulum problem

The focus on STEM in education is in full force. Science, math, and technology are somehow linked to the economic success of the country. Resources and attention follow the factors that are understood to influence the bottom line. The weird thing, I think, is that this focus of attention and resources can be seen even at the level of elementary education. STEM for all despite the reality that the contributions to be made will require college and probably graduate-level education and most even at this advanced level will be unable to develop the level of expertise necessary to make actual contributions.

K-12 is a zero-sum environment and this environment is underfunded to begin with. Resources focused on STEM (time, content funding, educator support and professional development) mean there is less available for other content areas. Few problems facing the country are exclusively STEM-based. Consider the present climate-change issue. This problem is about science, but not because of science. The science is pretty clear. The problem is one of economics, failed information literacy, and ethics. More STEM will not provide a solution to this scientific challenge.

So many of our real problems are “social” problems better addressed by the second-class citizens of education professionals – social studies educators. Our biases when it comes to the importance of various content areas have long been obvious. These social problems must be addressed by anyone and do not require a graduate degree. What the solutions require is a focus on better understanding at all levels of education. It is time for K-12 folks to get off the STEM bandwagon and do a better job of preparing the total learner.

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