by Ken Gorrell,
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
Hassan’s Heroes on the Board of Education struck a blow for mediocrity last week, denying the application for a K-4 charter school focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Two of the three votes against came from Hassan-appointees Bill Duncan and Emma Rous; the other came from Helen Honorow, a Lynch appointee.
Democrats’ love of “choice” turns sours when it comes to public education, unions, and the best interests of children – or more specifically, children of parents who can’t afford the education options exercised by wealthy men like Duncan. Until we elect a governor who will put the interests of children first, we’ll have to live with our bad decisions. It’s not like STEM education is all that important, right?
According to Stay Work Play NH, a nonprofit dedicated to attracting and keeping young professionals in our state, high technology accounts for about 9% of the workforce, but those workers account for 30% of the gross income. While a career in a STEM field isn’t for everybody, encouraging our state’s children to explore options in STEM is good for them and everybody else who benefits from a strong economy.
Unfortunately, it’s not just Democrat appointees standing in the way of STEM. The field itself is under attack. The acronym has already mutated into STEAM with the addition of “Arts,” and this last bastion of logic and reason in education is being assaulted by the woolly-headed hoards that overran liberal arts education, laying waste to what had once been serious fields of study.
Many liberal arts majors and courses are beyond parody. What job options open to you with your BA in Puppetry or one of the various fill-in-the-disadvantaged-group Studies majors? What marketable skills does one gain sitting through “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender, and Media,” (Skidmore) or “Gaga for Lady Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity” (UVA)? How do you explain to your parents that you were forced to endure – and they paid for – “Aesthetics in Context: The Artistic Impulse,” a core course at Roger Williams University that uses as a text book a novel graphically depicting the professor’s own “unusual” sexual encounters? (It will shock no one to learn that this tenured professor uses class time “disparaging capitalism and free enterprise.”)
STEM majors used to be immune from such course offerings, or could at least pick and choose their humanities electives, passing up “Queer Musicology” in favor of a decent literature or history course. In their major courses, STEM students focus on facts, data, and the scientific method. Driving across a bridge or ascending in the elevator of a skyscraper, you don’t care about the class, race, gender, and identity concerns of the engineer as much as you do his skills as an engineer. Calculation correctness takes precedence over political correctness. The job market reflects this reality. A Career Builder survey of 2014 college grads found that 51% of those working are not in jobs that require a college degree. Not surprisingly, STEM and health care majors were more likely to be employed in full-time jobs requiring a degree in their major field of study.
But the wall between serious STEM and often frivolous Humanities is cracking. A University of North Dakota doctoral candidate asks the question “Are STEM Syllabi Gendered?” Her “Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis” asserts that “Grading on a curve is one way that the literature has found to be competitive and discouraging to women and minorities,” and suggests the use of “less competitive teaching methods” to “improve the experience of female students.” How long before STEM students are choosing between “Lady Gaga and the Physics of Gender Identity” and “One, Two, Many: Aboriginal Calculus”?
This doctoral student described STEM courses as “chilly” to women in part because of their “competitive environment,” “individualistic culture,” and “comprehensive exams.” Consider that the next time you board an airplane. What kind of education did that aeronautical engineer have? Hopefully not one based on the type of thinking that produced “A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research.” This exploration of “the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers” merges “feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology,” “leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.” You can read all about it in the journal Progress in Human Geography.
Providing children with great STEM learning opportunities is critical to our state’s economic well-being, but we must not allow academia’s penchant for gender, race, and political lenses to cloud the teaching of STEM.
Ken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org