Few proposed policy measures receive sacrosanct praise as STEM education, or the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and math. The impetus is very simple: other countries, namely China and other Asian rivals, have “alarmingly” surpassed our academic performances. If we don’t do anything, we’ll leave our children to a “yellow” future.
Thus, the push by our education system to promote STEM education, typically at the expense of other subjects. Reading and writing are important, and subjects such as literature and history are useful for holistic learning. But the real money-maker – and we are talking about money – is STEM education.
The trick that drives everyone on the STEM education bandwagon is that it helps our children become professionally competitive. To a large extent, this is true. No matter in what professional field you ply your trade, you need basic competencies in math and current, relevant technologies.
But we sometimes fail to appreciate the other side of the argument, such as:
STEM Education Occupies Secondary Importance
If work-related skills determine our education system, then it logically stands that reading and writing, or so-called “soft” skills, represent the most important abilities. On the other hand, STEM education is a secondary concern.
How can I say that? Just look at the obvious: not every job requires a STEM education. But every job requires reading and writing skills. If you can’t understand written instruction, nor can you communicate with others in writing, you are going to have serious trouble in life.
STEM Education is a Misnomer
The education system promotes STEM as critical for our country’s future competitiveness. It’s this type of nuanced falsehoods that promote critical misunderstandings. Indeed, if competitiveness is the genuine concern, the education system should instead promote TE education.
That’s right! Science and math aren’t necessarily productive or practical endeavors in the workforce. For instance, theoretical physicists strive to uncover the theory of everything. And what happens if they discover it? Nothing.
Maybe China Simply Produces Smarter Kids
Asian Americans grew up with the stereotype that they’re “good at math.” Never mind if they are or not; simply their Asian-ness (or Other-ness) warrants this attribute. In reality, this stereotype is used as a backhanded racialized compliment.
It’s interesting, then, in this hyper-sensitive era, if Asians took ownership of this intellectual capacity, society would brand them reverse-racists. But the thing is, I don’t think any amount of STEM education would allow the U.S. to beat China.
Think about this in reverse: would “basketball education” allow China to beat the U.S. in basketball? No, the U.S. is a basketball powerhouse, and that’s unlikely to change. In the same way, no amount of government mandates can force competitiveness in our children.