If you don’t recall, or perhaps you weren’t a subscriber at the time, but our core purpose at Imagine! West Michigan is to help our students to gain the self-awareness and experience necessary to create a purposeful life. That’s why we talk so much about how to create opportunities for kids to figure out who they are, what they want to do and try out paths to get there. And while every high school will talk about career preparation (in the context of “college preparation” and sometimes with a nod to “life preparation”) we believe in young people living their lives now – not waiting for them to start. Not only is this the best preparation anyway (“you can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving”) but figuring out what you want to do with yourself is not the “once and done” endeavor of our parents, but an iterative process our kids will find themselves managing through again and again. I figure, learning how to do that young, and with support, is a great place to start.
So having said that, now I’m going to bash on STEM. Apologies in advance.
A word about STEM Education from Teacher Tom
Teacher Tom is Tom Hobson, a teacher at a wonderful cooperative preschool in Seattle. He blogs at teachertomsblog.blogspot.com, and back in March he wrote a post about STEM, a topic it turns out he is somewhat uniquely positioned to have an opinion about. As it turns out, his wife is the CEO of a software company:
Earlier in her career she was an automotive executive and has held senior positions in several technology-based businesses. She is, as she realized to her delight not long ago, one of those much sought for rarities: a woman with a successful STEM career. That said, she studied languages at university. That’s right, languages, not science, technology, engineering or math, yet here she is today running a technology company.
Science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM as they are collectively called in the contemporary lexicon, has become an emphasis for our schools both public and private. The idea is that those legendary “jobs of tomorrow” will require STEM skills and so we are feverishly “educating” our children to be prepared for their future roles in the economy. Setting aside the hubris embodied in the assumption that anyone can predict what jobs our preschoolers will grow up to hold, science, technology, engineering and math are important aspects of what it means to be human and fully worthy of exploration whether or not one is going to one day require specific employment skills.
When my wife was a preschooler, no one envisioned computers on every desktop, let alone on every laptop. The internet hadn’t even made an appearance in science fiction novels. And we all carried dimes in our pockets just in case we needed to make a call on a public phone. Today she is the CEO of a software company by way of the automotive industry by way of the jobs that her study of languages made available to her when she stepped into the workforce. The problem with predicting what specific “job” skills our children will need in the future is that we can only guess, because it’s not us, but the children themselves who will invent those jobs, just as my wife has invented her own STEM career.
So the “bash” on STEM isn’t really against STEM, but against the hubris that teaching say, computer programming, is the be-all and end-all answer to prepare kids for a changing economy. The truth is that we don’t know what the future will hold. But it’s also true that every one of us has an amazing collection of gifts and talents, very few of which we get to express in traditional models of schooling.
Rather than guess at what the future might need, knowing we’ll most certainly wrong, I’d advocate for finding ways to apply what we are really good at today, then continuously adapt. After all… if it turns out you hate programming, how much worse to also find out later in life that “guarantee” of a good career, wasn’t?
Too often, we spend years thinking we are “dumb” or narrowly defining our “skills” only to find out later on that our more quirky talents are often the most precious.
As always, thank you for reading and for your support.