Friday, September 13, 2013

The Bloom Is off the STEM

For America’s high schools students, the bloom is off the STEM.

Everyone knows by now that the good jobs today and tomorrow are in fields like science, technology, engineering and math. Add on health care jobs and you have a good indication of where high school students should be directing their efforts.

Last year, the message got through. This year, high school students are showing markedly less interest in studies that would lead them to STEM or health care careers.

NBC News reported the findings:

A national sample of teenagers ages 14 to 18 found a 17 percent drop off in interest in jobs in the STEM or medical fields, the study co-sponsored by non-profit youth organization Junior Achievement found.

Of the 1,025 teens surveyed, 30 percent of the boys and 16 percent of the girls indicated some interest in STEM careers. A year ago, 41 percent of the boys and 21 percent of the girls were on board. Medical-related jobs (including doctor, nurse, dental hygienist and other jobs) also took a hit dropping to 13 percent from 30 percent a year ago.

Employers are worried. If young Americans are not prepared for the jobs of the future, more and more of those jobs will travel to countries where people are capable of doing them.

Worse yet, these children have no real interest in overcoming their deficiencies.

More and more of them lack any sense of purpose. They are so mired in the here and now that they do not know what they want to do when they grow up.

How to explain the drop off?

Sophisticated educators believe that the message hasn’t gotten through to America’s high school students. They recommend hiring more administrators and having more assemblies.

Yet, these children do have parents. Every responsible parent knows where the future jobs are. Every responsible parent explains it to his or her children.

Besides, if these children knew about STEM subjects and health care job opportunities last year, why has there been such a significant drop off in interest in these fields?

I suspect that the reason lies in the difference between talking and talk and walking the walk. It’s easy enough to gin up an adolescent’s enthusiasm for subjects like math and physics. But then, when these students take a few advanced math and science classes, they discover that these subjects require hard work. Math and science courses have right and wrong answers. You cannot get by on self-esteem.

The same has happened in colleges across America. Freshmen take a few math courses and discover that their GPA is not what they wished. They feel that the only way they can overcome their narcissistic injury is to find a friendly humanities course where grade inflation will guarantee them an A+.

Sad to say, too many of America’s young people reject hard work and discipline. They seem to be suffering from the sin of sloth. Some college teachers have remarked that young people entering college today are notably lazy.

Perhaps, the students do not want to do what they have to do in order to compete. They have left the field open to Asian-American students, the ones who have Tiger Moms.

In New York’s Stuyvesant High School, an institution where admission is based almost entirely on test scores, the entering class is over 70% Asian.

Of course, it is also possible that America’s high school teachers are simply not very good at teaching math and science. They might be turning off their students.

Either way, these young people are neither seizing the day nor preparing for the future.


Anonymous said...

In The Uses of Enchantment author Bruno Bettleheim communicates a main idea. He says when a child hears a fairy tale he or she does not ask, "Who is good?" But rather, "Who do I want to be like?"

Do students 14-18 want to be like a boring professional adult in a culture that glorifies CEOs and athletes and entertainers? Not really and it is foolish to expect them to do so. The effort in STEM should be on how do students actually learn? What motivates them? And what must they learn at various stages? How do we prepare teachers to be leaders and role models in local communities? Then at least a local presence would be offered to students who see the value of becoming like their teachers and instructors.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam L. said...

"Sophisticated educators believe that the message hasn’t gotten through to America’s high school students. They recommend hiring more administrators and having more assemblies."

Says it all about current education. And yes, I suspect there are few really good teachers in STEM classes who can teach and make it interesting. Our pop culture goes for entertaining, not engaging the mind.

Oooooh, you got a Spambot reply!

Anonymous said...

The good news is it helps us old geezers (who studied STEM subjects very hard because we wanted the good jobs)stay employed.
It's not that young people are stupid, it's that they are lazy (and feel entitled).
Apres moi, le deluge should be the motto for the boomers. We spent all the money, went into debt and raised a bunch of losers.

Anonymous said...

Baby Boomers making fun of other generations for feeling entitled? There is no generation in American history tat has been more entitled tha the Boomers. It's pathetic.

N said...

Yeah seriously, stop calling us lazy after you ruined this country from you irresponsibility, baby boomers. Good luck finding a decent doctor when all of their salaries are going to pay your social security.

Dennis said...

Since I am a little more mature than "baby boomers" I would have to generally agree with young people that "boomers" have done a tremendous amount of damage, and still are, to almost every aspect of this country.
The younger generation is no more lazy than those who have come before them. Their big problem is that when the "Me" generation took over the education system they spent more time on indoctrination instead of providing the education that would serve the younger generation well. Most of the younger generation seem to me to be good kids living in a far more dangerous world because the 'boomers" degraded morals, freedom, education, economics, et al.
If we deserve the government we vote for then we deserve the younger generation, who was our responsibility, we appear to have created. I truly feel sorry for the younger generation because their parents, in many vases, were such selfish individuals quite happy to dump all this debt and poor governance on them to have to deal. When a whole generation believes that they can kill their own children to suit their needs they deserve the enmity they receive. Callous justifications aside. Are they supposed to be happy with the fact that the "boomers" let them live only to dump all the problems "me" generation created?

Dennis said...

Quite frankly I have never understood the desire to think badly of the younger generation. Just who is it that is responsible for everything they have become? Surely they were not born with all of these bad traits and ideas? The generations that follow us reflect as much about us as it does about them.
The "greatest generation." in its desire to protect its children from the effects of the 20s, 30s and a World War, failed to prepare the "boomers" for the realities of life, through pampering made them self indulgent and caused much of what was wrong about that generation.
The same could be said about Men as a whole. In our desire to protect women from the evils we had to face and to make their lives better through creating all kinds of time saving devices we took away much of their contribution. I don't think men considered that women need to feel that they were doing something good for their lives as well. Men accepted the hardships so their wives and children could have a better life.
It should not surprise anyone that feminism grew more radical out of the "Me" generation and more and more children were separated from the very people who were the one's that early defined their approach to life.
Given that the "Me" generation was "anti" almost every thing American they attempted, and still are, what it is to be an American. The destruction of its history, the degradation of its culture, the over sexualizing of its children and the debasing of one's very identity as an American. It is interesting that much of this came from the very people who benefited the most at the expense of those who had to work hard to make ends meet. The upper middle and upper class were not tasked with fighting the wars because they had college deferment so they had the time to believe that the were the "best and the brightest" and to learn to despise everyone else who was not in their coterie. Others were just "cannon fodder." I heard this stated by an engineer who worked for the DoD providing the equipment and means to fight wars to the very men he appeared to despite and were VietNam veterans.
Now we have one of the most destructive generations to being an American in charge and one wonders why the younger generation is confused and in many ways rebelling against the "boomers."
The next time one wants to cast aspersions at the younger generation, especially the "Me" generation, they need to think who really is responsible and who is doing something to make it better.
It amazes me that people can wake up every day and not notice we have one of the most anti-American administration ever to exist in the country's history.