STEM Flame War!

Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

It’s not often that you find a number of online comments on a scientific journal’s website. It’s even rarer to discover something that is bordering on a scientist flame war (complete with requests for evidence!). Colin Macilwain asserts in a recent editorial in Nature that he thinks programs to encourage STEM education are a spectacular waste of money. Now this particular stance is already going to incite some backlash. He says that all the overlapping programs are wasting money and that making more scientists will just depress wages by flooding the market.

What ensues in the comments section is a debate over whether increasing scientific literacy for all is important in today’s society and whether there is truly a shortage of qualified scientists to fill open positions. I was excited to see so many scientists engaged in discussion of STEM policy and with well articulated opinions on the subject. Not everyone agrees on the ultimate goal of STEM education, whether it be to raise the level of science literacy universally or to increase the number of students who go on to careers in science. As it is, there is a glut of biologists who are struggling to find employment, though I think fields like computer science may not be experiencing the same problems. I personally, don’t agree with Macilwain, but I think more scientists should be thinking about science and society and participating in the discussion. Science literacy for all!

Classing it up

William Curtis School (Adolf Cluss, 1875), O Street, NW between 32 and 33rd Streets. Razed 1951. DCPS Archives
William Curtis School (Adolf Cluss, 1875), O Street, NW between 32 and 33rd Streets. Razed 1951. DCPS Archives

Those of you out there who went to graduate school, try to think back to the early days….I know the PTSD makes it difficult, but try to remember the beginning of graduate school. Do you remember the required classes that you had to take?  These classes were a mostly a hodge podge of random professors talking about either their own work, or a concept they may not even be familiar with. I read a Commentary in the journal Cell the other day that gives me hope that schools will consider modifying their graduate curriculum and spend more time on teaching. Continue reading “Classing it up”

STEAM = Robot poetry dioramas

Yes, interactive robot poetry dioramas (by MindShift). I went to high school in the wrong decade. Though, I did once have an animatronic element on my Science Fair board (studying circadian rhythm in gerbils).

*Hat tip to SpongeLab.

Recruiting under false pretenses?

In conjunction with the Uncommon Alliance: Women in STEM conference in Washington, DC (8-9 March 2013), there was a social media push (#DCSTEM) in conjunction with International Women’s Day to get professionals in the sciences to provide 140 characters of encouraging young women to go into STEM fields. I encourage, in my own way, but I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that I’m being a bit disingenuous when I do so. Continue reading “Recruiting under false pretenses?”

Teach a child to think

LMU students taking a class at the LA zoo. Photo by Adan Garcia.
LMU students taking a class at the LA zoo. Photo by Adan Garcia.

For the last month, the science policy group I belong to has been discussing K-12 STEM education. The United States’ scoring on international achievement tests has been falling since the 70s. You can look over the data for the most recent evaluation by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) here. For all of our posturing as the most powerful country in the world, we are failing to give our children a competitive education. How do we turn the ship around and teach our children to think critically and help them prepare for a life in a rapidly advancing society?

Continue reading “Teach a child to think”