Debunking The Myths That STEM Isn't For Everyone

Why STEM Education Is Important - For Everyone

Guy confused by molecule
Yes, Virginia, You Really Do Need STEM Education. Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) has been one of the biggest topics in US public education in the last several years. Everyday you can open a newspaper and see labour statisticians claiming that STEM jobs will have strong growth and great wages. You turn on the radio only to hear a news report about how US school are adopting new science standards. Then you pick up a parenting magazine filled with fun STEM activities you can do at home with your children.

When any topic has become this big in the media, you can be sure that there will be critics and naysayers who arise. There are several different articles in major newspapers and news websites that say this new emphasis on STEM is overblown. Claims from the naysayers point to statistics like how many unemployed tech sector employees there were during the great recession, or even the simple fact that not every young person will want to work as either a scientist, engineer or software developer, and even if they did, we need to have a workforce made up of more than those three fields anyway.

So, if not every child will grow up to a be a fully employed as a physicist or mathematician, why do we need strong STEM education for every single student in our country, starting in elementary school?

1 Good STEM Education Teaches Critical Thinking

Knowing how to think about and solve problems is one of the best skills we can teach children.

No one can ever predict what problems they will encounter in the future. In the past, it was good enough to get a basic education in reading and math and follow that up with specific skills that were learned and used in a future career. That just doesn't work anymore.

Everything is changing, and fast.

Many workers can expect to change jobs, and the related job duties multiple times. This is true whether they stay in one career field or switch to another career entirely. Add to this that there are probably jobs that will change completely because of technology and innovative developments. One of the best skills we can give the workforce of tomorrow is the ability to learn, problem solve, think critically, and analyze problems.  

Facts and information can be referenced easily in books and on the internet. The trick is having the knowledge base and thinking skills to know what information you need and how to use it.

2 Many Jobs In The Future Will Require Some STEM Proficiency

Okay, so maybe your child will grow up to be an artist, a mechanic, retail salesperson a hairdresser, or work in some other field that is not really a STEM job. Chances are, they will still need to have some STEM proficiency for their job and career.  A good base education in STEM concepts will give them the needed foundation to add the specific STEM skills or understanding to be current in their field. No one knows for certain what jobs will be like in the future, but I will give you some examples of what this looks like already.

I took my vehicle in for work to a mechanic who used technology skills to fix cars. This went well beyond just hooking up a diagnostic machine and reading a code. Instead, he spent a fair amount of his time looking up ways to repair vehicles by using his iPhone. My husband one day watched and visited with his mechanic friend as he asked Siri to offer definitions of specific parts, consulted with other mechanics through various social platforms, and accessed videos showing exactly the best methods to make a vehicle repair.

The mechanic had the knowledge and skills to ask the right questions and evaluate responses.

 He wasn't limited to one source or book on how to fix the vehicle - he could consult with others to find out what the best parts and techniques were to make the best repair that fit the customers needs.

I also have an artist friend who uses her computer to create tech-based collage art.  She also does paintings on canvas and other non-technology based artwork.  She uses social media platforms and website coding skills to market her artwork.  She has also had to learn computer coding in order to make the computer based art.  

I could write a dozen or more examples detailing how STEM is used across many career fields.  This trend of STEM skills being used in non-STEM professions is likely going to continue as new technology and innovations are developed to enhance the work performed in a variety of fields.

3 Today's Children Are Tomorrows Leaders and Voters

We live in a democratic republic - founded on the idea that every adult citizen has the right to vote. In order for our democratic republic to function, we need informed citizens to make wise votes.

Many of the policy issues of today and the future are really STEM based. Things like Energy use, medical research, natural resource development and use, telecommunications, and the related cyber security issues that arise.  Quality STEM education will give the voters of tomorrow the background necessary to understand the issues and the critical thinking skills necessary to make decisions about the issues.  

Today's parents also should stop and remember that today's youth will be the voting population when we are in our old age. This can remind us of how important it is to us and those that we love that today's youth receive an education that will prepare them to make the best decisions possible. They will be making decisions that affect our health care and well-being in our senior years. 

STEM education isn't just for the future biomedical professionals or tech lovers.  It is for all of us.

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