Shaping the Perception of STEM Education

If the economic challenge facing the United States is truly this generation’s “Sputnik moment,” as President Obama suggested in his state of the union address, then the revolution in STEM education fields needs its modern inspirational role models.  In the 1960s, American children looked up to astronauts, idolizing heroes with PhD’s in engineering and science.  Today, STEM proponents hope to revitalize the image of the educated professional in their field to help encourage more young people to choose careers in math and science.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers recently announced funding of $5 million over the next five years as part of an effort to “change public perception of manufacturing” and win more young people over to the field. By funding schools’ STEM programs and advanced learning at summer camps for middle and high school students, these efforts hope to expose children to a number of exciting technology and engineering opportunities available after graduation.

While extra-curricular STEM initiatives add value, some have argued that teachers retain their primacy in shaping how today’s students view math and science.  Presenting to Congress last fall, Karen Klomparens, the Dean of the Graduate School of Michigan State, and Robert Mathieu, chair of the Department of Astronomy and a STEM education researcher at University of Wisconsin, offered data that “90 percent of students that leave STEM disciplines cited bad teaching as a primary reason and 73 percent of those who stayed also complained about the poor teaching.”  Both credited the amazing breakthroughs made by research at universities, but argued that an added emphasis on teaching would help retain more students in STEM courses through the graduate level.

Posted by: John Coit

Sources: arstechnica.com, npr.org, tmcnet.com

Photo Credit: Science Careers in Search of Women 2009 by flickr user Argonne National Laboratory

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