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  • #16
    So, I am totally confused.

    I thought the issue was the US was way behind educationally and that STEM programs were supposed to help lessen the gap in the Science/Technology/Math gap we have with other countries

    Are we saying its all a scam and our eduication system relative to Science/Technology/Engineering and Math is fine?

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    • #17
      OGE, my answer is 'no', we're not 'fine'. What I see is students who are really bright but who arrive unprepared in both background knowledge and understanding as well as not possessing the 'attitude' that it takes to make up 'lost ground' and get competitive. This is primarily a problem in math and the quantitative subjects which are necessary for the sciences and engineering.

      I can identify individual students who are going to 'make it' in the real world, short of catastrophe, no matter what. Then at the other extreme there are students who should not have been admitted in the first place. They go away quickly. I expend a lot of my time trying to move students from the middle group up to the first group. Sometimes it works. But patterns that are formed early in childhood are almost impossible to overcome by the time I meet these kids. That could be one motivation for some of these early STEM programs.

      I see great discrepancies among arriving students and the strongest factor seems to be what school system they attended. That factor includes not only the school itself but also all the related factors such as family background, motivation, economic status, family engagement, etc.
      Here's the thing: a school that has a 'critical mass' of engaged, motivated parents will naturally tend to provide better preparation and education. The parents demand it. A school that does not have that 'critical mass' of engagement is left to fate - if they happen to have a really good principal they can still be a really good school. But without engagement by the community, a weak principal and school is likely to be allowed to continue. There seems to be a lot of this but I don't necessarily blame the school. If society just shrugs, they're getting what they deserve.

      In this country, families which understand the importance of STEM disciplines and education seem to be in a minority. But if they are clustered, they can achieve local excellence. This describes an inequity that crosses all sorts of boundaries but I think it is concern for the 'others' that is driving the STEM interest today.

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      • #18
        Pack; I perceive a possible hint that a broader based education is still important, even though it seems to have been pushed aside in favor of narrow focus. This would be especially true in high school from what I see. The integration of writing, grammar, familiarity with basic philosophy and the arts, geography beyond simple political location with math and science is critical. And, while there is a lot of talk about the need for more scientific education, it certainly is not promoted very highly in elementary and middle school due to the focus on teaching to the test(s).

        Locally, we have a very small Catholic college that still uses the classic teaching approach from the 17th or 18th century, an almost totally inter-related curriculum based on face to face discussion and debate. They also still learn Latin. What is interesting is that those that graduate and go to higher level studies have a very successful track record, much better than most schools. It appears the method of teaching there is a major factor.

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        • #19
          Skeptic, I wholeheartedly agree with what you write about the need for the broad perspective. I also agree with regard to your comment about methods but you reminded me of another aspect of parental engagement with that comment. There is no one who will 'know' a child as well as the parents can, if they are really engaged as parents. In that situation, they will be better prepared to choose the right learning setting with the best teaching methods for their child. No one is better prepared to make that decision, IF they really know their own child.
          I see many of the differences and inequities as a result of differences in parents and parenting. Schools merely provide opportunities. They are poor substitutes for good parents.

          This is one reason I get depressed at times because the 'bad parenting' cycle is one that is difficult to break out of. I've seen it happen a few times but not often.

          OGE asked about whether or not STEM initiatives are scams. The answer is probably mixed. If one examines these things at a level that is 'local' enough to really know the personalities involved, the answer should be easy (and hopefully not a scam). But when an initiative originates from an organizational level for which it is difficult to really know the responsible persons, there is always a greater risk of deception. Nevertheless, when the opportunity comes along for local persons to do something good, regardless of the origin of that oppportunity, I say go ahead and make the very best you can of that opportunity...even if it does turn out to be part of some scam. Like the song goes at the end of the 'Life of Brian', "always look at the bright side of life".

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          • #20
            I have long said I would have no problem as a teacher working on a merit scale. I also want to pick my stidents, I'll take the ones whose parents give a damn and I'll be fine.

            Otherwise its like giving a baker rotten fruit and then expecting world class pastry. Not going to happen. The single best indicator a kid will do well is engaged parents.

            So, the disparaging of STEM is due to what?

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            • #21
              I guess I didn't notice anyone disparaging STEM. What I did notice was people disappointed in the way the economy has made it hard even for highly-skilled persons, maybe some skepticism with regard to what people should expect from STEM education. That skepticism is not inappropriate.

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