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I was at University of Scouting yesterday and took the cub scout STEM-NOVA class. In our council (which was a pilot council before it launched nationally), mentor registration is via a form and handled by the council advancement committee in the same manner as merit badge counselor applications.
00Eagle, I have a feeling you and I would have been in the same building yesterday for University of Scouting, but I recently suffered a little injury and won't be walking on both legs for a couple more weeks. I decided it wouldn't be too much fun hobbling around a middle school (right?) for three hours. I did notice the STEM class on the schedule back when it looked like I would attend, and would have been right there with you. It's always a good event.
I was talking to a couple engineer friends of mine at a party on Saturday. The topic of STEM came up...the verdict was unanimous ... what bunch of hot air and waste of time.
The whole premise is false ... that there is a shortage of engineering and other high tech talent in the US.
The issue isn't the supply side, its the demand. There's a shortage in the US, because all the high-tech companies outsourced the positions to India, China, Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey ... and pushed the engineers in the US out of the business.
Now that those Companies have learned that sending the technology to the third world results in poor results and IP theft, they're crying that they can't hire engineers...well that's false. There are plenty of out of work engineers in all disciplines in the US...they companies just want to hire them for the price of those in India/China/Bulgaria/Turkey ...
For the most part, your average modern-day engineer spends most of his career either waiting for the next layoff/salary cut, or trying to recover from it.
A friend of mine is a Civil Engineer at an A&E firm that just laid off 40 people. ANother friend who is an engineering technician has been out of work over a year. And I wouldn't advise anyone to go into medicine now...
Maybe an appreciation for STEM is its own purpose, and not for vocational training. There is a pleasure in appreciating the works of God and the works of Man, whether it is the Milky Way or a span bridge, or the elegant beauty of a Fibonacci sequence.
And maybe, as we are increasingly a technology-driven country, a lawyer or doctor (or a teacher, or a soldier, or a salesman) will have more need to understand STEM-related topics if he wants to be competitive in the 21st century.
As well as pioneering and rifle shooting, as a fall-back in case society collapses.
As Heinlein said, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
While there WILL be a shortage of physicians in the near future, after hearing about the stuff they have to deal with currently, I would not recommend it.
Not being paid to treat a patient with the most up to date procedure recommended by your specialty association based upon current research b/c medicare/aid states you need to do an older procedure because they have not updated their guidelines, That's a problem.
When you are getting sued by one of your deceased father's patients because you are a "Jr.," the malpractice insurance you paid thousands for won't cover your expenses b/c the person suing you was never a patient of yours, and you have to pay out of your own pocket, and take time away from your patients b/c the plaintiff's lawyer refuses to acknowledge they are suing the wrong person after several months of trying to get that point across, only to have the case thrown out with in a few minutes of wasting a judge's time, that's a problem.
Anyone who quotes Heinlein is OK with me.
There is 'STEM' and then there is STEM. I am at what many would call a STEM educational institution, in a STEM field. My son is an engineer (mechanical) and I interact a lot across disciplines, including many of the fields of engineering. My son was strongly recruited during his junior year, along with many of his buddies. He has quickly climbed the ladder and makes a lot more money than I do. His buddies have been similarly successful.
There is another group of graduates who are not as successful, even though many of them had grades as good as the first group. They were interviewed but not strongly recruited. Some of them were hired but laid off...by the same firms as my son and his buddies. What do you think the difference is?
I follow this stuff because I teach across many fields and I want to understand why some students succeed while others struggle.
Here are my observations:
There are people who have mastered the skills of their profession and can solve most any problem that is put before them.
There are other people who have mastered those same technical skills but who have also gone beyond that and acquired a broader understanding of complex social/political/economic systems and how their profession interacts with all aspects of society.
I'm thinking about Steven Dutch's really, really, REALLY inconvenient truth here: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/Inconvenient.HTM
I really like this quote from him near the end: "While the Chinese were unrolling an LED screen the size of a soccer field at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony, we were groveling before people who want to see Obama's birth certificate and still insist the earth is 10,000 years old. I watched the opening ceremony and contrasted it with the sorry spectacle of the 2008 Presidential election and thought, they are going to mop the floor with us."
His point is fairly plain and I agree with him. Yes, luck and connections have some influence. But luck isn't dependable and connections can also be fickle, especially over the long run.
Dutch is retired now. The students' loss.
If it is like the Merit Badge councilor sign ups.....
We will have food service and retail workers, landscapers, painters and security guards mentoring boys who are doing engineering......
No it isn't right or proper, I don't give a hoot what ya think.
I think a bachelor degree in an engineering field should be a prerequisite to be a mentor.
If the councils approve every tom dick and harry to be a mentor then the program will be as irrelevant as the merit badge program is.
Bring the BSA back add some integrity to the program.....But then again you have dads, moms, uncles and grandpas rubberstamping everything so they can be an eagle. There is no way it will ever improve.
Our council does a Stem program with the help of a local military base. My son took Veterinary Medicine which had an Army Vet teaching the class. Son says he got a lot out of it.
Also had one of our dads counsel at the same Stem, he's a retired engineer.
I think these programs can be good if qualified counselors are used.